The Wheel Silk

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Asian Geographic - - Culture - Me­sopotamia

c. 3,500 BC

The first known de­pic­tion of a wheeled ve­hi­cle is a Sume­rian pic­to­graph from around 3,500 BC. Ar­chae­ol­o­gists are not sure whether the wheel evolved from wooden rollers or tree trunks used to move blocks of stone, or from the pot­ter’s wheel, which was then adapted to new use. Lighter, more so­phis­ti­cated spoked wheels first ap­peared in the sec­ond mil­len­nium BC, also in the Mid­dle East.

c. 3,200 BC

Chi­nese leg­end has it that the Em­press Lei Tsu first dis­cov­ered silk around 4,000 BC, when a silk­worm co­coon fell into her hot tea. As the em­press fished the co­coon out of her teacup, she found that it un­rav­elled into long, smooth fil­a­ments. Rather than fling the sod­den mess away, she be­gan to spin the fi­bres into thread. This may be noth­ing more than a tall tale, but what is true is the fact that Chi­nese farm­ers were cul­ti­vat­ing silk­worms and mul­berry trees (for silk­worm feed) as early as 3,200 BC.

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