History Paper on How the Wheel Changed the World

How the Wheel Changed the World

The wheel is one of the most significant inventions on the face of the earth. It did not only change the world of transportation but also led to several other inventions that contributed to making life more bearable. It is estimated that the wheel could have been invented in about 3500 B.C. Many changes have been made to it since its invention, from the use of clay in ancient times to rubber in recent history, thus increasing its durability and usability. Evidently, throughout history, several inventions drew their inspiration from nature. For instance, the table fork was inspired by the forked sticks from trees while the airplane was an imitation of flying birds. However, the wheel drew its inspiration purely from Homo Sapiens himself, to aid in locomotion. The wheel has had a significant impact on the world today. It has improved its economy through transport, changed its geographical appearance as well as contributed to the cultural exchange between different communities of the world.

In ancient days people would travel by foot or domesticated animal everywhere they went. In fact, many would spend months in travelling from one destination to the other. Despite the availability of horses and camels, wheels resulted in a revolution by the fact that they could be tied to horses and bulls to create carts and chariots, which would carry more goods and humans around the world. Chariots were not originally invented. They were an advancement on early variations. The first chariot was invented around 3200 BC. It was used in several civilizations even until the invention of the motor. Apparently, chariots were a luxurious mode of transport that was mainly used by people from the upper classes and Royal families[1].

Today, despite the technological advancement of the wheel, some people still make use of wooden wheels to transport their goods from one geographical region to another. Wheels have significantly reduced the total time individuals have spent travelling from one destination to the other. Horse carts and the motor car have made transportation smooth and easier.  Bulky and heavy goods can be transported over long distances without difficulty as compared to the past. In addition, perishable commodities are able to reach their destination on time hence eliminating losses.

The invention of the wheel led to the introduction of roads. Common routes and paths that led to particular destinations were marked and transformed into main roads. With the introduction of the wheel, it was essential for people to start seeking out ways of transporting heavier loads since paths had the limitation of turning into muddy bogs during the rainy season, a need developed for paved roads for strength thus roads that had stone paving were created, first in Mesopotamia and then in India[2].

During later centuries, the world became engrossed in several wars and with them there was an increase in the need for movement, especially for the military to get from one place to another. Since paths were not enough, the Romans took the initiative of building the first modern superhighways due to the availability of war chariots and much later, automobiles, which used wheels.  In addition, it was a requirement for the military to travel for long, unhindered stretches at high speeds, especially as they sought safety during the war.

Despite the fact that no one really knows who invented the wheel first, it continued to inspire thousands of innovations throughout history. For instance, the invention of flywheels and pulleys were a product of the original wheel. These were used to lift heavy construction stones and other materials to the top of buildings. They were also used to lift workers at their construction sites enabling them to reach the high places where they were supposed to work. Buildings reached greater heights, especially in the cities, as a result of the use of flywheels and pulleys.

The wheel’s invention has changed the world in other ways too since it inspired the innovation of water wheels that were used in the generation of forms of power during earlier centuries. Furthermore, the use of rotating gears, whose mechanism is based on the wheel, was the main spark for the industrial revolution which still has an impact on modern day life. Steam engines also had their roots in the wheel. The invention of the steam engine made transport easier since it was used to create the first train. Trains had the capability of carrying more passengers as well as heavier loads over long distances saving time and energy. Steam engines were also used to develop steam ships which changed how transport was done in the water. Traveling through water became less risky and less time-consuming.

The wheel played a huge role in enhancing trade between individuals, communities, and countries. In the beginning, the wheel was also used for shaping clay since potters needed products in bulk for sale, the wheel increased production efficiency and promoted the introduction of new inventions in turn. In the past, trade and agriculture formed part of mainstream businesses. Herders would travel long distances in search of pasture to ensure that their animals remained strong and healthy for sale[3]. In this case, they needed to carry with them their basic requirements such as food and shelter, which were bulky and could not be carried by hand[4]. Wagons were essential for such situations since most herders spent most of their time in forested valleys. The wagons now became their temporary and mobile homes permitting them to follow their animals to the deeper parts of the forests and grasslands.

The invention of the wheel equally led to the invention of plows as horse transport. Plows have made it easier for farmers to till their land without much strain as in earlier times. They have also ensured that farmers have their lands ready for sowing within a short duration of time. Plows are more effective than other manual tools since they can dig deeper and better. Wagons ensured that farmers had the ability to transport their products from the farmlands to the city for trade. Other farmers transported their products to other types of farmers in exchange for different goods hence enhancing barter trade. The creation of trade between different communities did not only strengthen business ties but also increased the spread of agricultural technology. For instance, farmers who traveled long distances to sell wool or dairy products would spread their knowledge to other farmers who would then engage in the same business[5].

The invention of the wheel has benefited many people especially those that invested in the transport industry. The development of trains was inspired by the realization that the wheel allowed  for other forms of locomotion too. The business of transporting people and goods on trains and steamships at a fee began hence creating business and job opportunities.

Socialization and cultural interactions were characteristics of an enhanced transport system as a result of the wheel’s invention. Even before 1500 CE people had the freedom to travel beyond their borders to interact with other cultures and languages. This led to a cultural exchange amongst the traders[6].

In conclusion, the invention of the wheel has totally transformed the world. Humans have acquired the ability to move from one place to the other without much struggle and strain. The wheel’s invention and innovation remain beneficial due to the fact that many people can now trade outside of their communities. Transportation through air and water has also been enhanced since the introduction of the steam engine, which made use of the flywheel in trains and steamships. Today, many people have adopted different cultures as a result of the interaction that occurred in ancient days, especially during trading periods. Out of the wheel’s invention the world experienced the industrial revolution making things easier and more interesting.



Anthony, David W. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Princeton University Press, 2010.

Bulliet, R.W., 2016. The Wheel: Inventions and Reinventions. Columbia University Press.

Nolan, James. “History of Goods Transportation.” Transportation Engineering and Planning. 2015. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.

Sax, M., Meeks, N. D., & Collon, D. (2000). The introduction of the lapidary engraving wheel in Mesopotamia. Antiquity, 74(284), 380-387. Retrieved from http://libproxy.sdsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.libproxy.sdsu.edu/docview/ 217555599? Accountid=1375

[1]David W. Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. (Princeton University Press, 2010).


[2]James Nolan,. “History of Goods Transportation.” Transportation Engineering and Planning. 2015. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.


[3],4David W.Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. (Princeton University Press, 2010).

[5]R.W.Bulliet.The Wheel: Inventions and Reinventions. (Columbia University Press, 2016).


[6]M.Sax, N. D.Meeks,  &D.Collon, (2000). “The Introduction of the Lapidary Engraving Wheel in Mesopotamia.”Antiquity, 74(284), 380-387. AccessedFebruary16, 2017, http://libproxy.sdsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.libproxy.sdsu.edu/docview/ 217555599?accountid=13758