Used to support construction workers and their tools/materials, scaffolding is also known as scaffold or staging. It is used in the construction and repair of many different structures including buildings, bridges and skyscrapers as well as temporary structures like concert staging. While it looks fairly simple, with its lattice work of metal tubes and wooden boards, it is actually quite a feat of engineering with evidence that it originated in Africa and China. But what else do we know about the origins of this construction aid?

Scaffolding in China was constructed from Bamboo

In some parts of Asia, scaffolding is actually constructed from bamboo as opposed to metal. These structures are built to an impressive height, even for building skyscrapers. The Great Wall of China was actually built using bamboo scaffold!

bamboo scaffold

Traditionally the materials were made of wood however a shortage of wood in the 20th century in certain areas, lead to the use of other materials.

The most famous scaffolder of all

Michelangelo’s scaffolding construction, used in the painting of the Sistene chapel is perhaps the most famous scaffolding in history.

sistine chapel

Used thousands of years ago

Inventor Daniel Palmer-Jones is considered the grandfather of scaffolding after he standardised and introduced many of the modern-day practises however it can be traced back thousands of years. There is evidence of its existence in the Palaeolithic cave paintings of Lascaux that scaffolding was used 17,000 years ago. There is also an image of a warrior being supported by scaffolding on an ancient Greek Kylix (wine cup) from the fifth century.

Basic components of scaffolding

Tubes, couplers and boards are the main components of today’s scaffolding with tubes being bought in 6.3 metre lengths and cut to size. There are 3 different board thicknesses which are a maximum of 3.9 metres long and couplers are used to hold the tubes together. On average, the heaviest scaffolding component used is around 20kg. it’s clearly not a job for the faint hearted!