Although archaeologists are always discovering new information, the question of which culture originally invented the wheel remains unresolved. It is thought the first use of logs as rollers to transport heavy objects was around 10,000 BC, and the oldest wooden wheel dates back to 5250 BC. However, the earliest depiction of a wheeled vehicle was unearthed near Krakow and appears on the Bronocice pot, which has been dated to around 3635 – 3370 BC.

The invention of axles allowed the use of wheeled vehicles such as chariots and carts to spread across Europe. Spoked wheels made for lighter chariots, which helped the Egyptians expand their empire. Somewhere between 300-100BC the Greeks adapted this invention and made the first water wheels, some of which are still in use today.

Wooden wheels were eventually replaced by metal ones, and with the invention of the steam locomotive the design changed again as sturdier wheels were needed. In 1802 G.F.Bauer registered a patent for wire spokes and in 1845 John Dunlop patented the air filled tyre. This became known as the pneumatic tyre, and was first fitted to cars by Michelin in the 1880’s.

A new use was found for the wheel when George Ferris Jr. built an attraction for the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus landing in America. Originally designed to rival the Eiffel Tower, the ferris wheel has become a big part of modern carnivals and funfairs.

Today, car and tyre manufacturers are continuing to come up with new and imaginative ways to use a basic wheel. Michelin’s invention of the Tweel, an airless, integrated tyre and wheel system, and the Active Wheel System for electric cars, are just two of e next steps on a long path of innovations that began with a round piece of wood many centuries earlier.

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