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OT: Wheels (Was: Clockwise without clocks)

From:Tim May <butsuri@...>
Date:Wednesday, April 13, 2005, 0:07
Roger Mills wrote at 2005-03-31 15:09:26 (-0500)
 > H.S. Teoh et al. wrote:
 > > >
 > > > That's why I prefer using the sun as the referent for
 > > > "clockwise" motion.  I wonder if there is any lexeme in the
 > > > American Indian cultures for this concept, prior to
 > > > colonization.
 > > [...]
 > >
 > > You mean the pre-colonial Amerindian cultures don't know the
 > > wheel?  That's interesting.
 > >
 > Apparently not. Bear in mind, until the horse was brought in by the
 > Spaniards, there were no adequate beasts of burden. (Dogs and
 > people can't pull much; llamas are difficult, plus an Andean
 > mountainside isn't someplace you'd want to be in a wheeled
 > vehicle....).  Mexican/Mayan cultures, maybe-- IIRC ceramic wheeled
 > toys (or miniature models?) have been found.

Yeah, you can see some of them here[1][2].  I've been unable to
determine with any confidence the distribution of these finds in time
and space - Cihuatán is a late classic Maya site in El Salvador.

Wesley Parish wrote at 2005-04-01 20:54:37 (+1200)
 > It seems to have been related to the development of smelting.
 > Stone Age peoples like the pre-colonial Americans never got that
 > far.

That seems an odd conclusion to draw.  Do you have any particular
causal relationship in mind?  AFAIK the correlation holds, but the
wheel's only been independently discovered perhaps three times in
human history.

I'm inclined to think that the abscence of adequate draught animals
was the main factor.  (This introduction to a paper on wheeled
vehicles in Bronze Age China [3] suggests four conditions for
development of the wheel - draught animals, timber supply, woodworking
skill and amenable terrain.  I suppose smelting, and metal tools,
would have some bearing on woodworking.)

Still, it's interesting.  You'd think any society with sedentary
farmers would benefit from a wheelbarrow, but I guess it's just not
that obvious.



Wesley Parish <wes.parish@...>