When most people think about advancements in technology and large leaps forward in science, they imagine nanotubes, gigabytes and other very small and very intricately designed items. These people are managing to overlook the most important technological advancement in all of human civilization, the one without which we may still be living in nomadic tribes roaming the range—the wheel.
This seemingly simplistic item set the stage for civilization and with it, made the advancement of the human race possible. Without wheeled transport, widespread trading would have never occurred. Without widespread trading between tribes and proto-cities, established city states could have never sprung up. One single tribe, even if it were settled and farming, would never have been able to grow and raise everything its people would need. Trading enabled people to grow surplus grains and vegetables and trade for other needed items. Many anthropologists believe hunting and meat eating, particularly in regards to very large game, helped set the stage for co-operation between tribal groups. Wheeled transport made sharing the wealth between the groups an option.
Interestingly enough, it seems that the wheel developed almost simultaneously among the peoples of the ancient world. It was developed in sub-Sahara, Asia and Central America at virtually the same time. Looking at this discovery, it seems difficult to deny that humanity was practically destined to leave behind the nomadic life and begin to develop urban centers. In light of this, the wheel seems practically revolutionary, even compared to technologies like the radio, television, light bulb, computer, and iPod. They may be shinier and more fun to play with, but did they help bring man out of the caves and into towns? The wheel may seem simple and not very extraordinary, but it is truly one of the most important pieces of technology man has ever discovered.