A brief history of scaffolding

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A brief history of scaffolding

Scaffolding is an essential part of modern construction and is used in a wide variety of applications. From small construction projects to large industrial projects, scaffolding provides a safe and stable platform for workers to do their jobs - and has done so for thousands of years.

One thing is certain: almost no major construction project or architectural masterpiece can be completed without scaffolding. This is true for both today and the past. After all, people have been using scaffolding ever since the first buildings were erected. And perhaps much longer.

 

Prehistoric scaffolding used for cave paintings

If you are lucky enough to visit the caves of Lascaux in western France, you will see an impressive testimony to human history: the cave walls are covered with thousands of colourful and intricately painted images of animals, such as horses, bulls, and deer, as well as abstract symbols and human figures. Painted around 17,000 years ago.

In some cases, drawings are found high up on the ceilings of the caves - which our ancestors would hardly have been able to reach without tools. In fact, sockets can be found around the paintings, which indicate that a scaffold-like structure was used to access these hard-to-reach areas.

The foundation for one of the most important building techniques may therefore have been laid at this early point in history. It is certain that the scaffolding had to undergo numerous further developments before it became the scaffolding we know today.

 

The walls of the caves of Lascaux in France are covered in paintings made by prehistoric human.

 

Ancient Egypt: Were scaffolds used to build the pyramids?

One of the most impressive structures in human history is undoubtedly the Pyramids of Giza. At 4,500 years under their belt, they are both the oldest and the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing today.

How the ancient Egyptians managed to build such imposing structures without the aid of modern construction machinery has long puzzled historians. The Great Pyramid alone was built from 2.3 million blocks of stone, each weighing between 25 and 80 tonnes. One of the most plausible theories is that the workers used wooden ramps to move the stones upwards.

Wooden scaffold-like structures could also have been used to lift the stones with the help of a rope. At least if you believe the Greek historian Herodotus. According to him, these scaffold-like structures were built on each level of the pyramid.

Scaffolding, such as may have been used in the construction of the pyramids, consisted of planks and wooden uprights connected by simple knots made from sides or willow branches. Wood was very expensive in ancient Egypt, so scaffolding was usually only used to build temples and statues. For everyday house building, ladders were used instead of scaffolding.

 

20,000 to 40,000 people were constantly involved in the construction of the pyramids.

 

Ancient China paves the way for the modern scaffold

The Great Wall of China was built in sections with different construction techniques during the Ming Dynasty.

 

The first steps towards modern scaffolding may have been taken in ancient China. There, bamboo was tied together with rope to form structures very similar to today's scaffolding. Early sections of the Great Wall of China are said to have been built using bamboo scaffolding. Evolutions of bamboo scaffolding are still widely used today, especially in South East Asia.

 

Bamboo scaffolding, like this construction in Hongkong, is still in use today.

 

"Scaffolder monks" in the Middle Ages

Time jump to the Middle Ages. Scaffolding became even more important as architecture developed and construction techniques advanced. Builders created wooden structures strong enough to support workers and materials, often using mortise and tenon joints to hold the pieces together. These scaffolds were used to build everything from simple houses to towering cathedrals.

In fact, monks were instrumental in the further development of scaffolding in the Middle Ages. So-called "scaffolder monks" were specially trained in the technique of constructing cathedrals and other sacred buildings using scaffolding until the 20th century. Their scaffolding consisted, for example, of sturdy squared timbers connected by ropes and crosspieces. Loading cranes were also increasingly used.

Modern inventions: Steel and system scaffolds conquer the market

In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution led to the development of new materials and construction techniques, which in turn led to the evolution of scaffolding. Steel scaffolds were developed, which were more durable and easier to assemble than wooden ones. The introduction of new building materials such as concrete and steel also required new types of scaffolding, and specialised systems were developed to meet these needs.

In the 20th century, scaffolding continued to evolve as construction methods became more advanced. System scaffolds became popular in the 1950s, and in the 1980s, the first mobile scaffolds were developed, which allowed workers to move scaffolds around more easily.

Modern scaffolds are designed to be lightweight, durable, and easy to assemble, making them an essential tool for construction workers all over the world. To find out more about the history and future of scaffolding, click here.

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