When I saw her, it was love at first sight: beautiful, slender, elegant, complex, and I know size isn’t everything, but she has got the biggest roof I’ve ever seen on an early Neolithic building!
But there was something else. Not that I noticed it at first, as I ran my eyes over her sleek form, but eventually my eyes were drawn to the openings.
So let's cut to the chase: Longhouse 6 from Olszanica in Poland  has a doorway 2.20m wide, and it is dated to 5000 BC.
So what is that all about?
Olszanica Longhouse 6
The Olszanica site B1 is a typical LBK period settlement [Linear Pottery Culture, etc.]. It was one of several sites excavated on this loess area above the flood plain of the River Rudawa, on the outskirts the ancient Polish city of Kraków.
The site was part of a much wider series of sites covering 50 ha, with traces of subsequent Lengyel, and perhaps Funnel Beaker, cultures found. The former was discussed in the previous article, and the latter is discussed below.
These characteristic borrow pits, typical of the period, were dug for material for daub walls and then filled with refuse, the residue of which largely defines their culture 6000 years later.
In common with other buildings of the period, these vary in width from 4.75 – 6.5m, with size being achieved by increasing the length of the structure.
The basic pattern follows that of Elsloo, with a stave wall section, with evenly spaced sets of internal posts, a central ‘hall’ section roof with wider and more complex bays, and a section with double postholes at the southerly end. As would be expected, there is clear indication of a doorway at this end, perhaps projecting from the end of the building.
In addition, there are two gaps in the wall on the eastern side of the building, suggestive of entrances, at either end of the central section. This is where the trouble starts!
The diagram below has a label “Cart shed?". This would not be a problem, but for the date of the building. In all other respects, I would be happy to call it a “cart shed”; but the site has radiocarbon dates that put it in completely the wrong millennium for carts!
So, what are we to make of this?
* There is some other reason for wide entrances.
* Postholes have been missed by the excavator.
As I have observed in an earlier post, normally the only reason you need a wide door on a farm is to allow access for a wheeled vehicle. Neither humans nor stock need a door wider than necessary. In the case of the latter, the last thing you want is an animal to able to turn around while it is going through a door or passage. Offering animals choice is not how farming works.
In terms of the current understanding, a cart shed of this date is out of the question. However, as archaeologist who specialises in structures, this building intrigues me, and I think it would be useful to look at the implications for the built environment of wheeled transport. This is a line of evidence that has not been widely explored.
Thinking the unthinkable
The model developed for Elsloo 32 was of a tripartite building, with a stave wall section, a central hall, and a floored part at the southerly end. There is a door at this end, and at least one, and quite possibly two, further entrances along one side. These correspond to the position of passages that separate the three main sections.
The hall section is 60’ long. This compares with 30’ for Elsloo, which may be viewed as three 10’ bays. The Olszanica building hall section has six bays of uneven size, wider (about 12’) in the middle, with narrower bays at the ends.
The doorway suggested next to the floored section in Olszanica 6 is in about the same position as the passage in Elsloo 32.
The entrance provides a gap of about 8’. It opens into a space about 18’ long and 10’ wide, room enough for a modest saloon car, but a bit tight fit through the door!
There is only one post in the space, located to the left of the door. While this appears to narrow the entrance, it is actually also 8’ from its nearest post in the opposite wall.
The more northerly entrance has a post in a similar position. However, a second possible feature indicated to the south [dashed on the plan], would block the interior. This entrance is 6’ wide, and leads to another wide bay, which seems to be part of the central section.
As we will see, there are some compelling arguments to suggest that carts at this early date are highly improbable. However, my reasons for considering that the term ‘cart shed’ could be applied to this part would be as follows:
- It is positioned where we might reasonably expect there would be an entrance.
- It is next to a floored section of the building that most authors would assign some agricultural function, such as a granary.
- It is of sufficient width to be of use to store a wheeled vehicle.
We will return to consider other aspects of this impressive building in more detail in a later post. Next we should consider more generally what adoptions and changes to the built environment would be required by, and may be indicative of, the introduction of wheeled vehicles.
Theoretical Built Environment
The early LBK farmers who first cleared the land and established the agricultural infrastructure and built environment, would require relatively narrow paths and openings. Deliberately constructed pathways might require sufficient width for two cows or people with baskets to pass with ease, but there is no pressing reason for width in a farming context: narrow lanes and entrances are convenient for moving stock around.
However, once wheeled vehicles were introduced, provision would have to made for them in the built environment.
Considerations for new and existing infrastructure:
- Pathways, gates, and entrances have to be widened;
- Gradients must be reworked.
- Wider and higher doors;
- The ergonomics of wheeled vehicles [e.g., loading platforms];
- The greater logistic potential of wheeled transport [i.e., bulk loads].
- Storage of wheeled vehicles;
- Storage of associated tack and accessories;
- Requirements of draught animals;
- The making and maintaining of wheeled vehicles.
When was the wheel invented?
This question actually is more complex than it looks and actually prompts three further questions:
- What do you mean by "the wheel"?
- What do you mean by "invented"?
- What do you mean by "when"?
It is fairly clear that pottery produced on a slow wheel appears in the early phase of Sumerian culture known as Ubaid period [5300 –4100 BC], and was quite widespread. The development of wheeled vehicles and the fast potter's wheel is associated with the following Uruk period [4100 - 2900].
Left: Late period Ubaid pottery from Tel al Ubaid, [British Museum] 
The Uruk period is also particularly significant for the invention of writing, which later would create the conditions necessary for the invention of historians. But there is more to the story than that, and ‘when’ is always a complex and contentious issue for archaeologists and historians, and the further you go back, the hazier the answer becomes.
A brief history of archaeological time
There has always been a conflict between ‘real time’ as measured by our clocks and calendars, and time as measured by the various means employed by archaeologists and historians.
It is important we tackle this issue, so let's start in c17th century Ireland, where Archbishop James Ussher made the most famous, but not the first, calculation of age of the earth, by adding up the reigns, lifetimes, and periods in the Bible. He came up with October 23, 4004 BC, a date still regarded as accurate by those who ascribe similar properties to the Bible.
While Ussher's conclusions have long since been rejected, his methodology has survived in certain branches of archaeology studying periods where the reigns of pharaohs, kings, and their priests were recorded. Thus archaeology developed a complex, intricate and ingeniously linked chronology based largely on time as perceived and recorded in the past.
So now we have ‘historical’ chronologies, radiocarbon dates, and calibrated radiocarbon dates, as well as calendar dates, which can be obtained with the most accuracy from local dendro-chronologies created by comparing the annual growth rings preserved in ancient wood.
Olszanica B1 is dated to 4400–4000 bc in un-calibrated radiocarbon years, which corresponds to about 5400--5000 BC as a calibrated date. In other words Longhouse 6, one of the later buildings on the site, is probably a little over 7000 years old, and dates from around the time that wheel-turned pottery appears in Mesopotamia, but long before evidence of carts in central Europe.
The wheels of Change
In 1976, an excavation at Bronocice in SW Poland uncovered parts of a pot with incised decoration depicting two carts with yokes. [left] 
The site was occupied during the Funnel Beaker or TBR culture phase, one of a complex group of cultures that succeeded the LBK in northern Europe, in the Fifth and Fourth Millennia BC.
Bones from the pit in which the pot was found gave radiocarbon dates of around 3635--3370 BC, which, as the excavators pointed out, is earlier than dates for pictograms of wheels from the Samarian Uruk Period.
In cemeteries like Budakalász on the Danube in Hungary, pottery models of carts have been found. The example, from Grave 177, was painted and is incised with zigzag decoration. [Left]  Some models with handles, which may be drinking cups, have been found on the earliest Baden cultures sites like Boglarelle on Lake Balaton.
What was also found at Budakalász was a grave containing two humans with the bodies of a pair of cattle laid out at right angles to them. Double cattle burials occur in other Baden cemeteries dated to the middle of the Fourth Millennium.
There is remarkable convergence of evidence around 3500BC from a variety of sites and sources for the presence of wheeled vehicles in central Europe. Furthermore, the use of draught animals for ploughing may be placed in a similar timeframe.
In the late 1920s, while excavating the cemetery at Ur, Iraq, Leonard Woolley found deep shaft graves where the rulers of the Sumerian city were buried around 2500 BC, along with their finest possessions, and a complete retinue of deceased soldiers, servants, and assorted hangers on -- even draught animals! This prompted Woolley to christen it ‘the Great Death pit of Ur’.
The grave goods, although badly decomposed and crushed, were some of the most extraordinary archaeological ‘treasures’ ever found. While undoubtedly overshadowed by the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb earlier in the decade, the finds from the death pit are a thousand years earlier and in many ways much rarer and more valuable. Their recovery and conservation was a considerable technical achievement for the time.
We have almost, but not quite, reached that icon of ancient warfare, the horse-drawn chariot with spoked wheels. It was still five centuries away, but that is a whole new chapter. However, it does remind us that, while evidence for carts is emerging in Europe at around 3500 BC, far to the east, in Kazakhstan, the horse was being domesticated by the Botai Culture.
Roundhouse 'porches' with wide entrances: A: Pimperne Down, Hampshire. B & D: Little Woodbury, Wiltshire. C: Moel Y Gaer P10, Flintshire. E: Longbridge Deverill Cow Down, Wiltshire. F: Orsett S9, Essex. 
Sources and further reading:
 S. Milisauskas (1975): 'The Linear Culture site at Olszanica B1 in Poland', Archaeologia Polona vol. 16:
http://www.iaepan.edu.pl/archaeologia-polona/article/245 (accessed 28 October 2009)
 http://structuralarchaeology.blogspot.com/2009/10/34-curious-case-of-lengyel-longhouses.html (accessed 28 October 2009) http://structuralarchaeology.blogspot.com/2009/08/33-elsloo-32-neolithic-longhouse-made.html (accessed 28 October 2009)
PJR Modderman (1975): 'Elsloo, a Neolithic farming community in the Netherlands,' in Bruce-Mitford, R L S, Recent archaeological excavations in Europe, Chapter IX.
PJR Modderman (1985), D'ie Bandkeramik im Graetheidegebiet, Niederländisch-Limburg.' Berichte der Römisch- Germanischen Kommission, 66:25-121
 http://structuralarchaeology.blogspot.com/2009/04/27-trip-to-farm.html (accessed 28 October 2009)
 Edward de Bono (1973): Po: Beyond Yes and No ISBN 0-14-021715-0
 P. Charvat (2002): Mesopotamia before history London: Routledge; p148
H. E. W. Crawford (2004): Sumer and the Sumarians. Cambridge Univ Pr; p180
 After: http://www.hartford-hwp.com/image_archive/ue/pottery03.jpg (accessed 28 October 2009) After: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Radiocarbon_dating_calibration.svg (accessed 28 October 2009)
Data from: M. Stuiver, P. J. Reimer and T. F. Braziunas (1998): High-Precision Radiocarbon Age Calibration for Terrestrial and Marine Samples. Radiocarbon 40, 1127-1151. Downloadable from University of Washington, Quaternary Isotope Lab: http://depts.washington.edu/qil/datasets/uwten98_14c.txt (accessed 28 October 2009) J. Kruk & S. Milisauskas (1999): Rise and fall of Neolithic agricultural societies, Krakow
 Image source: http://www.ma.krakow.pl/wystawy/wozy_z_bronocic [in Polish] (accessed 28 October 2009) Eva Maria Wild, Peter Stadler, Mária Bondár, Susanne Draxler, Herwig Friesinger, Walter Kutschera, Alfred Priller, Werner Rom, Elisabeth Ruttkay, & Peter Steier (dng): New Chronological Frame for the Young Neolithic Baden Culture in Central Europe (4th Millennium BC). At: http://winserion.org/Stadler/StadlerP_2002g.pdf (accessed 28 October 2009)
 S. Piggott (1973): Ancient Europe. Edinburgh Pl, Xa p96, & fig. 48 p. 93.
 A. W. R. Whittle (1996): Europe in the Neolithic: the creation of new worlds. Cambridge University Press Fig 5.1 & pp 121-123 A. Sherratt (dng): Animal traction and the transformation of Europe. http://www.archatlas.dept.shef.ac.uk/people/Frasnois.pdf (accessed 28 October 2009)
 A K Outram, N A Stear, R Bendrey, S Olsen, A Kasparov, V Zaibert, N Thorpe, and R P Evershed (2009): 'The earliest horse harnessing and milking.' Science 6 March 2009: Vol. 323. no. 5919, pp. 1332–1335 J G Jenkins (1978): Traditional country craftsmen. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London
After D. W. Harding, I. M. Blake, and P. J. Reynolds (1993): An Iron Age settlement in Dorsett: Excavation and reconstruction. University of Edinburgh. Department of Archaeology Monograph series No. 1
G. Bersu (1940): 'Excavations at Little Woodbury, Wiltshire. Part 1, the settlement revealed by excavation.' Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 6, 30 -111
G. Guilbert1 (1981): "Double-ring roundhouses, probable and possible," in Prehistoric Britain Proc Prehist Soc 47 &. G. Guilbert (1982): 'Post-ring symmetry in Roundhouses at Moel y Gaer and some other sites in prehistoric Britain', in Structural Reconstruction - Approaches to the interpretation of the excavated remains of buildings; British Archaeological Report 110, BAR, 67-86
S. C. Hawkes (1994): "Longbridge Deverill Cow Down, Wiltshire, House 3: A Major Round House of the Early Iron Age." Oxford Journ. Archaeol. 13(1), 49-69
G. A. Carter (1998): 'Excavations at the Orsett ‘Cock’ enclosure, Essex, 1976'. East Anglian Archaeology Report No 86