Today cranes are used extensively within the construction industry with a host of different varieties from tower cranes to mobile cranes. However, the need to lift large and heavy objects has always been prevalent in construction; unsurprisingly this need led to the use of cranes from early on in human civilisation.
In ancient Greece, the crane was used widely used. This has been substantiated by the fact that many Greek temples have stones with holes that give the impression that they were placed with the assistance of a lifting device. The development of the crane is believed to have replaced the older ramp technology that had previously been used to create large structures (such as the Pyramids in Egypt). It was however the use of the winch and pulley system that meant that the crane replaced the ramp and became far more mobile.
It was the Romans however that invested a great deal of time and energy into the crane. The Romans were renowned for their impressive construction efforts from the aqueducts of the Mediterranean to the magnificent Colosseum. The Romans developed a number of different crane varieties from the trispastos, a mobile and versatile crane to the treadmill crane, a more permanent structure capable of lifting extremely heavy weights long distances. As some roman structures have stone blocks of 100 tons and more, it is clear that the abilities of roman crane designers were immense.
In the middle ages the treadmill crane continued to be a mainstay of the construction industry although manual items such as wheelbarrows, ladders and hods continued to be used in construction. Windlasses were also used and in the construction of imposing structures such as cathedrals, windlasses with treadmills were used at various levels of the build as they were highly mobile and could be created relatively easily. It was not however until the modern age that cranes were used to not only lift loads vertically but to also move them horizontally. It was in harbours where cranes developed fastest due to the importance of trade and this remains true today were dockyards are typified by a skyline of crane variants.