The Ancient Elevators

Ancient elevators and modern elevators

Elevators that we known and use today become widely available just over 150 years ago, but human race begun developing them few thousand years before that. Ruins of the several ancient civilizations show the marks of the strange shafts that could possibly have been used for the simple elevators.

Greek scientist and inventor Archimedes (287 BC – c. 212 BC) created the first elevator that was based on pulleys and winches around 236 BC. He wound the rope around the wheel and attached two weights on its ends. If one of the weights was lighter then the other, then it can be easily be risen to top. To make elevator to stop more easily, Greeks often used platforms with equal weights and human workers would operate the wheel on the top. This design proved to be quite popular in Ancient Greek and its use was widespread.

The most complex elevator system of the ancient times was made in Roman Empire at the Colosseum Arena in 1st century BC. It hosted 24 elevator cages which were operated by the human force of 224 slaves. Teams of 8 slaves worked on a single winch (one of 28), who then gave life to the complicated system of pulleys leavers and ropes who finally delivered their deadly cargo to the arena floor. In a peak usage moments, all 24 cages could be brought up and down from the floor to the basements in the matter of seconds.

Before Greece and Rome one simple and crude form of elevator transport was present in Ancient Egypt. The greatest need of Egypt farmers was the transport of the important Nile water to their farms. For that purpose they devised simple solution in which water was gathered in clay pots and pulled with hemp rope. Studies show that several thousand slaves worked on those buckets during the farming seasons. Lack of Egypt’s machinery development prevented them in creation of more efficient ways to transport water via elevators.

During middle ages in Europe, elevators with designs similar to Greeks and Romans were in use at some locations. Walled castles and secluded mountain monasteries used the winch system to elevate people and goods to their inaccessible entrances. Age of ancient elevators came to the end between end of 18th and middle of the 19th century with the discovery of screw mechanisms, safety devices which prevented fall, hydraulics and electricity.