The Oldest Wheel In The World is More Than 5,000 Years-Old

Ljubljana Marshes Wheel - World's Oldest Wheel
Ljubljana Marshes Wheel – World’s Oldest Wheel

Intro

The invention of the wheel is perhaps humanity’s most outstanding feat of engineering. It has allowed us to prosper and build entire civilizations because of it.

While we might not pay a lot of attention to it, the fact is that wheels are used in every aspect of our lives. From farming to construction and everything in between. Alongside the discovery of fire, the invention of the wheel propelled human civilization to the next stage of development, from a nomadic lifestyle to a new sedentary life that would make entire civilizations flourish.  

While currently it is not known when the first wheel was invented, we have archaeological evidence of the oldest wheel to date ever found, known as the Ljubljana Marshes Wheel.

Ljubljana Marshes Wheel

The Ljubljana Marshes is a unique interwinement of meadows, fields, hedges and channels, where the green surfaces meet with the sky and the River Ljubljana, which helped create the marshes through history
The Ljubljana Marshes is a unique intertwinement of meadows, fields, hedges and channels, where the green surfaces meet with the sky and the River Ljubljana, which helped create the marshes throughout history. Source: Slovenia.Si

The Ljubljana Marshes Wheel was discovered in 2002 near the Slovenian capital of the same name. The archaeological team discovered a wooden wheel that has a 72-centimetre diameter and a long oak handle approximately 124 centimetres long.

Ljubljana Marshes Wheel with axle (oldest wooden wheel yet discovered)
Ljubljana Marshes Wheel with axle (oldest wooden wheel yet discovered) – Having a diameter of 70 centimetres (27+1⁄2 in), the wheel is made of ash and oak. The aperture for the 120-centimetre-long (47+1⁄4 in) axle is square, which means that the wheel and the axle rotated together.

The wheel and axle were scorched and covered in ash, probably to protect it from pests. It was found that the construction was very technologically advanced, given that the aperture for the axle in the wheel was square, meaning that the wheel and the axle rotated together as part of a cart.

This is known as a tenon arrangement, in which two planks of wood are held together with four braces, and the braces are fitted into tenoned slots carved into the two main wheel sections.

Diagram of a mortise (left) and tenon (right)
Diagram of a mortise (left) and tenon (right)

The discovery was made in a pile-dwelling settlement near the Iška River. The original  Ljubljana Marsh settlement was originally discovered in 1875, and since 2011 has been declared a protected World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  Analysis of the settlement revealed that it was periodically repaired every 10 to 20 years.

In the region, it appears the first inhabitants settled around 9,000 years ago and built temporary residences in the marshes. The first permanent settlements appeared to be from approximately 6000 years ago during the Neolithic Age.

Radiocarbon Dating

The invention of the wheel seemed to have happened simultaneously in Europe and Mesopotamia. However, the radiocarbon dating of the Ljubljana Marshes Wheel has shown that it is approximately 5,150 years old, making it the oldest wooden wheel to date.

 The Ljubljana Marshes Wheel can be currently seen in the permanent exhibit of the City Museum of Ljubljana.

World's Oldest Wheel - Ljubljana Marshes Wheel
World’s Oldest Wheel – Ljubljana Marshes Wheel

2 thoughts on “The Oldest Wheel In The World is More Than 5,000 Years-Old

  1. I find discoveries like this fascinating. I think it’s wonderful how brilliant and intelligent past civilizations were; just look at the Egyptian pyramids! Even with all our modern technology we still can’t figure out how they made it work!
    I also sometimes wonder what the modern world would be like without all these ancient inventions? Would we still perhaps be stuck in the Stone Age?

  2. Discoveries like this wheel are very brilliant and priceless. this wheel has still been standing for over five thousand years, and yet it still looks this way. our ancestors who made things like this must be very intelligent and highly creative i must say…..and i believe they were made with bare hands…WOW

Leave a Reply