EUROPEAN SCIENCE FOUNDATION EXPLORATORY WORKSHOP

EARLY SYMBOLIC SYSTEMS FOR COMMUNICATION
IN SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE


KARLOVO, BULGARIA, 14-20 APRIL 2002, SUMMARIES
EUROPEAN SCIENCE FOUNDATION

PREHISTORY FOUNDATION
Clay Models of Wheels from Later Prehistory: Evidence for Transport or Symbols of the Eternal Motion (Sun-Symbols)?

Vanya Petrova
Sofia University, Sofia, Bulgaria
v_n_p@abv.com

The early history of transport had long ago focused the attention of the scholars who estimate the invention of the wheel the beginning of later prehistory as one of the major breakthroughs in the history of mankind.
Up to now there are two types of data for wheel transport recorded in Bulgaria - traces of actual wagon wheels and miniature clay models of wheels. The former type is presented by a single find from a barrow grave in the cemetery of Placidol, belonging to the Pit Grave Culture and dated in the third quarter of the 3rd millennium BC.
     Far earlier date of appearance is proved for the second type of evidence for wheel transport - clay models of wheels. They appear in EBA 1 and continue to LBA. Most of the finds come from settlement context. Recent excavations, however, provide such evidence from ritual sites, which could give a clue for the functional interpretation of these otherwise non-utilitarian objects.
     Without exception these are plain perforated disks, with protrusions around the hole imitating the hubs. It is generally accepted that such wheels were in use for heavy wagons or carts drawn by oxen. It is not until the invention of horse-drawn chariots with light spoked wheels that one can plausibly speak about association of wheel with solar symbolism. Up to now such data from the territory of Bulgaria is entirely missing with one peculiar exception. This is a solid disk of baked clay perforated in the center, with incised decoration resembling both sunrays and spokes of a wheel. However, this find predates the earliest evidence for wheel transport with more than thousand years.
     The offered suggestion is that this object might bear the idea of a solar symbol so the association of the wheel with the cyclic motion of the sun is a universal and out of date concept, independent from the technological invention of the wheel transport.
cprslc@msn.com
2002 © European Science Foundation
2002 © Prehistory Foundation & Reports of Prehistoric Research Projects
2002 ©The authors
Editor: Lolita Nikolova
All rights reserved. Published: 12/21/02
Since 12/21/02