What was the impact of the Mesopotamian wheel on future civilizations?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The impact of the wheel on future civilizations cannot be overemphasized.  It is one of the most important discoveries in the history of the world.  Let us look at two reasons why this is so.

First, the wheel makes for the possibility of greater economic wealth.  Without wheels, it is very difficult to transport large loads of anything over long distances.  It is possible to do so over water, but it is very hard to move things anywhere without navigable waterways.  The invention of the wheel allows farmers to have carts in which they can easily bring their produce a few miles to market.  This capability, of course, expanded dramatically with the invention of things like trains and automobiles, which also rely on the wheel.

The wheel also transformed warfare.  The chariot was an important cavalry weapon in many societies.  It helped, for example, the Hyksos to defeat the Egyptians.  In much later times, wheels would also lead to the possibility of tanks and of the mechanized, highly mobile warfare that was practiced in World War II.

Thus, the invention of the wheel transformed both war and economics.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is still some scholarly debate as to whether the wheel was first invented in Mesopotamia or farther north in Eurasia. The earliest extant or represented versions from both cultures date to ca. 3500 BCE. Because a wheel requires precise shaping in order to function, it needs to be manufactured with metal tools, and thus could not be developed before the advent of metallurgy. 

Although we may think of the wheel primarily in terms of transportation, the first wheels were potter's wheels, used to improve the speed and quality of manufacture of pottery. Soon, the wheel became adapted for a wide range of uses including agriculture, transportation, and water mills. As wheeled transport requires smooth surfaces, it tended to be used in transport in relatively flat areas that were parts of large, complex empires that were wealthy enough to invest in substantial road networks. It also had military uses. Homer, for example, portrays the use of wheeled chariots in warfare.

Modern industrial society relies extensively on the wheel for transportation, agriculture, and manufacturing.

corinnedolci eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The wheel is a fundamental example of a simple machine; it's a tool that requires effort to utilize but reduces the overall amount of work needed for a given task.

Instead of sliding an object across the ground, that object can ride atop an axle that is attached to any number of wheels. The wheel provides an infinite number of fulcrums around which an object can pivot, reducing the friction needed to be overcome for that object's forward motion. 

Wheels have been paramount for economic and military development. Economically, wheels allow goods to be transported over long distances with ease. Combined with steam and motorized technologies that developed over the 18th and 19th centuries, wheels allowed modern national economies to develop. Further, the wheel makes transporting individuals easier as well. The development of the chariot was critical in the history of human warfare.