History of the Ladder

Old Ladder


People don’t usually think about ladders until they have to climb one. Still, it’s a common thing, seen in a variety of places – a tool used to access roofs, lofts, and other high places.

Timeline of the Ladder

No one really knows when the ladder was invented. However, the earliest evidence of it is located in Valencia, Spain. The Spider Caves have a Mesolithic rock painting of a ladder that’s about 10,000 years old. This painting shows two men using a ladder to access a wild honeybee nest, most likely to get honey. The painting shows a flexible ladder that was made up of some kind of grass.

While this is the first evidence of the ladder, most researchers are certain it is much older than that. The roots of the functional design of ladders as we know them today, can be traced right back to the ancient Hebrew and Egyptian cultures; these are the civilizations that developed and perfected it. Over the years, different kinds of ladders have been created to suit different purposes.

Kinds of Ladders

Some ladders are small and can be transported easily; others are large and take time to assemble. These tools can be broadly classified into rigid and flexible ladders.

Flexible Ladders – These ladders are usually made of rope, cord, grass, and other such flexible materials. They’re more convenient to carry and easy to use. Of course, they’re not very easy to actually climb. Flexible ladders will flex and bend when your weight it added to it, which makes it a very difficult ladder to scale without any practice. However, they’re often used in combat situations and can be great for emergencies.

Rigid Ladders – Unlike flexible ladders, rigid ones feel more secure under your feet and are very easy to use. Unfortunately, they’re also a little difficult to transport. Small ladders can be carried around easily enough. However, big ladders require special transport and help. There are several kinds of rigid ladders available including:

  • Attic ladders
  • Assault ladders
  • Bridge ladders
  • Chicken ladders
  • Counterbalanced ladders
  • Telescopic ladders
  • Folding ladders
  • Fixed ladders
  • Hook or Pompier ladders
  • Platform step ladders
  • Roof ladders
  • Orchard ladders
  • Step ladders
  • A frame ladder
  • Vertically rising ladder
  • X-frame ladder

Rigid or flexible, ladders are ubiquitous and indispensable. As the invention of the wheel allowed us to cross distances, ladders allowed us to conquer height – as well as provide the perfect metaphor for success philosophies. As American entrepreneur James Cash “J.C.” Penney once said: “No one can climb the ladder of success without first placing a foot on the bottom rung.”

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