| This looks nothing like a spinning wheel. It is included in this gallery because it actually is the precursor to the spinning wheel. It is called a drop spindle and was used to spin fibers into thread from ancient times and by nearly all cultures of the world.
Fibers of flax or other textile plants would be tied to the groove at the 'top' of the spindle (i.e. to the end of the handle), and the spindle would be given a whirl or spin, and then allowed to drop down, weighted down by the large block of wood at the bottom. The weight and the whirling would spin the fibers together into thread.