Subject: wheel in ancient America From: email@example.com (Yuri Kuchinsky) Date: 1997/05/12 Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Newsgroups: sci.archaeology,soc.history.ancient,sci.skeptic,sci.anthropology I hope we're not reinventing the wheel here, but here's some more info in regard to the use of the wheel in ancient times. Recently some discussion took place in these ngs in regard to wheel in ancient America. We know that _the idea of the wheel_ was known to ancient Americans, because of some toys (more correctly votive objects) on wheels they had. And now, I would like to add something further in this regard. I mentioned previously that the "potter's wheel" was known in America. Some people were surprised by this and asked me privately to provide the refs, so here it comes: ---O--- Did the prehispanic Americans know the potter's wheel? Terence Grieder, ROTARY TOOLS IN ANCIENT PERU, ARCHAEOLOGY, 28:178, (1975), also SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, 233/4: 54 (1975) He describes a type of a lathe found at Pashash, Peru. The principle of the wheel was apparently applied in the manufacture of stone vessels, also some pottery may have been so manufactured. This technique was used for a couple of centuries, and then seemed to disappear. ---O--- This certainly indicates that the wheel was better known in America than is commonly believed. So why didn't the ancient Americans use the wheel more widely? A number of explanations have been suggested, some of them utilitarian, and some of them based on mythological/religious reasons. Among the latter, one may suggest that because ancient "calendar stones" of the Mayans and the Aztecs were round, the use of such round objects may have been restricted by priesthoods. Who knows? I'm not saying I know the answer, just offering some suggestions... And now, I would like to offer some more of the "utilitarian" reasons. In particular, how significant the wheel really was as a "technological breakthrough"? There're a number of scholars who believe that the importance of the wheel is somewhat overstated. The use of _travois_, or a sort of a "sled", by Amerindians was mentioned already. But also some interesting cases are known when the wheel was known and then "forgotten" in some areas. One such area is North Africa during the middle ages. The wheel was certainly known there in early times, but then, apparently, it disappeared until it was reintroduced in the 19 century. Morocco is one such place. Again, what is really the importance is the "potter's wheel"? Here're some interesting considerations in regard to how important or significant this invention may have or haven't been. George M. Foster, THE COYOTEPEC MOLDE AND SOME ASSOCIATED PROBLEMS OF THE POTTER'S WHEEL, Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 15:53- 63 (1959), and THE POTTER'S WHEEL: AND ANALYSIS OF IDEA AND ARTIFACT IN INVENTION, Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 15:99-119 (1959) In these articles Foster compares the use of the true "potter's wheel" with the use of _kabal_ or _molde_, a non-pivoting but rotatable support for clay working. These are known in precolumbian America. He cites the anthropological literature to show great confusion about the "potter's wheel" as invention and its supposed consequences. Most of the statements displayed are accurate only if "throwing" pots was actually done at the speed and skill level of the device's potential. In fact that rarely happens; most potters, even today, do not approach the potential of their devices but use them as little more than fancy _moldes_. He conducted fieldwork and experiments showing that the speed of revolution of "the full potter's wheel" is highly variable, the rates normally attained overlapping with the speed of the rotating _moldes_. Thus the nature of the "invention" of the potter's wheel, let alone its supposed advantages, remains unclear. Anyway, all this information may provide some relevant background for our discussions... Best regards, Yuri. Yuri Kuchinsky | "Where there is the Tree of Knowledge, there -=- | is always Paradise: so say the most ancient in Toronto | and the most modern serpents." F. Nietzsche ----- my webpage is for now at: http://www.io.org/~yuku ----- _________________________________________________________________Click here to go one level up in the directory.