One of the most thrilling aspects of being actively involved in academic research must be making a discovery that questions received wisdom, particularly when it concerns something that has had a huge impact on civilisation. Cue Richard Bulliet, professor of history at Columbia University, New York.
In January 2016, Prof Bulliet published a challenge to the theory of where one of our most ingenious, useful and ubiquitous inventions is thought to have come from. While he hasn’t actually reinvented the wheel, by looking at archaeological evidence found in Neolithic sites in eastern Europe he has repositioned where it first rolled into existence.
“I’ve been interested in the wheel for many years but I didn’t focus on the early invention stage until about two years ago,” he says. “Then I started to question the received wisdom as to where the wheel first appeared. It seemed archaeologists were overlooking key evidence.”