What Did We Do Before Cranes?

01st May 2019

For thousands of years, people have lifted extremely heavy objects and built impressive structures using innovative methods. This is demonstrated by ancient wonders such as the Pyramids of Giza, Stonehenge and many other ancient sites around the world. Archaeologists and historians have been baffled by how these monuments were built by ancient peoples for many years.

While we don’t know for sure, the prevailing theory is that an intricate system of sledges, ropes, ramps and levers was used to build these impressive structures. Old methods of lifting and building are actually closely tied to the history and development of the modern crane, which goes back further than you might expect. Below we explore what we did before cranes and how we got to modern hydraulic mobile cranes.

The Compound Pulley

The birth of the pulley marks the start of the journey to creating cranes. The first pulleys were devised by ancient Mesopotamians as early as 1500 BC and were used to hoist water. The first compound pulleys were created by Archimedes of Syracuse around 287 to 212 BC, which he used to lift an entire war ship, along with its crew.

The compound pulley was a major innovation. By pulling on a Pentaspostos (crane with five pulleys) exerting a force of 20kg, a person could pull 115kg. The compound pulley had many downsides, however, the biggest of all being slow lifting speeds. The more pulleys there are, the slower lifting speed becomes. More rope also has to be pulled for a load to travel the same distance it would with fewer pulleys.

Winches, Capstans and the Treadwheel Crane

Eventually, winches and capstans were developed. These were used by the Romans to build temples, using the power of circular rotation which led to the increased use of gears. The treadwheel cranes combined compound pulleys with winches and capstans.

This was the last of the hand-powered cranes and offered a mechanical advantage of 30 to 1. Treadwheel cranes were used until the end of the 17th century and were essential in constructing everything from cathedrals to harbours.

Birth of the Modern Crane

The rise of ironworks and industrialisation meant that cranes finally made the switch from wood to iron in the 19th century. In 1851, hand-powered cranes finally began running on steam power – a big step towards modern hydraulic cranes. Today, we have a variety of tower cranes and mobile cranes capable of lifting hundreds of tonnes and building skyscrapers and other large, complex structures.

Mobile Crane Hire – Gold Coast and Brisbane

Do you need to hire a mobile crane for domestic or commercial job? Surf City Cranes offer a variety of quality crane trucks for hire on the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Ipswich. Ask our friendly experts about our different cranes and their capabilities and accessories. Call us today on 0421 665 654 or 0402 269 535 or contact us online.