While it might seem like a recent development, scaffolding has been a staple of large-scale construction for thousands of years. The history of scaffolding is rich, and evidence of its use can be found worldwide in various cultures. Below, we provide a comprehensive look at scaffold history tracing back to our primitive roots.
Prehistory: Approximately 15,000 B.C
The first evidence of scaffolding in human history originates from the Dordogne region in France. Found in a cave system in Lascaux, Ancient paintings span far beyond what any human can reach.
Furthermore, sockets can be found in the wall of the cave, indicating Palaeolithic humans used the wall to provide extra support. It is hard to imagine how these structures looked besides a simple, crude design. Despite the limitations of the time, these would become the stepping stones to creating the megastructures and cities we see today.
Ancient Egypt and Beyond: 2,550 – 220 B.C
The ancient Egyptians are known to have used scaffold-like wooden structures to assist in the construction of the Great Pyramids. Built between approximately 2,250 and 4,990 B.C., these platforms were specifically for lifting the 20 to 80-tonne blocks upwards and moving into place.
Egyptian scaffolding required wood and hemp and severely lacked any safety standards that are found in modern-day systems. Without it, the construction of the pyramids would be impossible.
The Berlin Foundry Cup details ancient Greeks using scaffolding on the exterior of the cup. The cup itself dates back to the fifth century B.C. Across the Roman empire, drawings show the Romans also utilising scaffold contraptions. They were likely used for building amphitheatres, aqueducts and various temples.
Without the early iterations of scaffolding, the construction of the ancient wonders of the world would have been possible.
Medieval Europe and Beyond: 1000 – 1836 A.D
In medieval England, monks commonly practised scaffolding as a means to build abbeys and churches across the country.
Wooden staging was employed with mortise and tenons in the timber to connect separate components. While this is a proven method in woodworking over thousands of years, it was ineffective against the high weight loads involved. Scaffold collapses were a regular occurrence from a lack of structural integrity and scaffold safety measures.
The Industrial Revolution and Beyond: 1837 – 1945 A.D
Wooden and rope were still in use up until the Victorian era, but the Industrial Revolution taking place would create the next big leap for scaffolding.
Steel tubing was introduced at the turn of the 20th century. The Jones brothers invented the Universal Coupler shortly after. Their design created the first modular system. Innovations paved the way for the boom following World War 2.
Post-War Boom: 1946 – Present
Rebuilding efforts following the war saw a surge in scaffold and construction safety. Wood was out and steel was standard with new modular systems, including Kwikstage, Layher and Aluminium Mobile Towers.
Today, different systems co-exist and are custom-fit to specific functions rather than a one-size-fits-all approach in the past. The technological and societal shift in worker rights means personnel are safer than ever before on-site.