By Mehmet Kurtkaya
Published online on November 14, 2016 (Updated on May 30, 2017)
Sumerian Chariot 2500 BC.
The wheel that we take for granted today was a relatively late invention, the oldest horse or ox cart wheel is dated to around 4,500 years ago. Pottery wheels are older and toy wheels are slightly newer.
If you consider how central the wheel is to our civilization, it is surprising to think that people did not think of it earlier. Humans have used tools since the first days of their existence some 200,000 years ago.
Most interestingly, archaeological records indicate that the wheel appeared at four different locations near simultaneously: Sumer (Iraq), Maykop Culture (Caucasia), the Indus Valley (India, Pakistan), and Central Europe.
Being such a late invention, and not an easy one to master technically, it is inconceivable that the wheel was invented near simultaneously at locations far apart from each other by different people. It was most probably invented in one place and then spread to others, maybe on wheel!
Speaking of wheeled vehicles, the domestication of horses first comes to mind. For this, there is a definitive answer: the horse was domesticated 6,000 years ago in the Steppes of Western Central Asia near the Ural Mountains that separate Asia from Europe. It's the area around northwestern Kazakhstan.
For one moment, let's consider that 6,000 years later, right after WW1, Turkish armies led by Ataturk were using cavalier divisions against the invading West during the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1923). The horse has been central to civilizations for 6,000 years, whether for trade, agriculture, or wars.
The domestication of the horse took place more than a millennium prior to the invention of the wheel. Is it possible that the invention of the wheel took place near the Ural Mountains, where steppes meet forests that could provide the woods necessary to experiment on wheels? Maybe.
Famed Finnish Assyryology professor Simo Parpola had made an important presentation to the World Congress of Assyriology in Moscow in 2007. In that presentation, he stated that he may have found major clues on the genetic relatives to the Sumerian language. He stated that he compared Sumerian words to Turkish words and came up with a huge number of matches: most of the 1,700 matched with existing languages! He also stated that a genetic relationship with Turkish seems plausible. Yet he still asserts Sumerian to be a Uralic language (which does not include Turkish) because he also finds many matches with Hungarian and Finnish, too. It's amazing how his presentation conclusions contradict his findings, typical of the West in social fields! Nevertheless, Simo Parpola deserves high praise for his very extensive work, the highest level of linguistic research in the 21st century which disproves the “Sumerian is a language isolate” lie. For his work he risks being chased off the Western Social Academics Temple, as some European scholars' ridiculous criticism against his Etymological Dictionary of the Sumerian Langıage (2016) shows.
The known Sumerian vocabulary is around 4,000 words, and if 1,000 of them match Turkish words after 6,000 years, then it is proof positive that Sumerian is a Turkic language, probably similar to Chuvash, an Ogur Turkic language which was classified as Turkic after long discussions. In the beginning, Chıvash was assumed to be a Uralic language and not Turkish. Not coincidentally the Ur- stem in the word Ural is the same as the -ur in Ogur and major Sumerian city Ur!
This paper has an important finding on our subject: wheels and wheeled vehicles. Parpola states that the words for wheeled vehicles in Uralic languages match the ones in Sumerian and correctly states that Sumerians must have arrived in Mesopotamia after the invention of the wheel!
Then, I may cautiously suggest that the wheel was invented near the Central Asia's Ural Mountain boundaries and then was transported to other parts of Eurasia: Central Europe, Caucuses, the Indus Valley, and Sumer!
Yet this does not exactly match the findings that the Sumer people descended from East of the Caspian Sea from Turkmenistan sites directly to Sumer.
At this point let's note first that Central Asia has been a Turk homeland for millennia. And also, that central Asian locations are not very far from each other, especially on horse. It could be that people migrated from Turkmenistan region to Urals and then descended south.
It is also probable that the migration to Sumer came from both directions. We know there were raids on Sumer from Eastern and Northern directions over the centuries. These people could be late-comers attacking the earlier settlers. It is possible that initial migrations could have been peaceful for a millennium and later arrivals were violent.
Turks are the most mixed among ancient people just like the Hungarians. Mixing with other people, indigenous populations, and other tribes has been well recorded throughout Turkic history. In fact, Sumerians mixed with the Akkadians, Afroasiatic desert people, and hunter-gatherers after settling in Sumer. It is possible that Sumerian Turks (Subar) arrived in Sumer from more than one direction or at different times in history.
The origins of the wheel must be considered together with other archaeological, genetic, linguistic, and cultural finds.
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Discover groundbreaking revelations on the roots of modern civilization in one short book. How did we arrive to where we are? How ancient civilizations a world apart, Sumer and Maya were connected. An overview that covers a wide range of topics from human migrations 50000 years ago to Gobeklitepe, the first temple in history, the first matriarchal society with written records, Elam, and to the Sun Cult of the Hattis. Their origins and influence on other ancient civilizations including their neighbors, distant relatives: Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Hurrian, Scythian, Oguz, Kassite, Gutian, Hyksos and more. (And all my articles on this website included.)