A brief history of the staircase

January 28, 2013 2 min read

Stairs are considered by many historians to be one of the oldest and most basic architectural features ever developed. As long as humanity has had the need to ascend different elevations, stairs have helped facilitate them.

Although it is almost impossible to determine when the first staircase was built, archeologists generally agree that the structure first came about in its modern form back in 6000 B.C. In John Templer's 1992 book "Staircase: The History and Theories," the author discusses not only the earliest kinds of staircases, but which structures themselves helped to shape modern architecture in general. 

The earliest staircases were essentially used to help facilitate foot traffic over hills and mountains. Individuals who could be characterized as very early landscape architects would place logs, wooden planks or stones going up an elevation as treads and risers to make the climb easier. This was especially useful in combating muddy slopes, where early stairbuilders would strategically place these materials at certain angles so that they would retain their structure even when a slope became impassible.

The first staircases were probably built to help ancient civilizations have an advantage over enemies by improving mobility to strategic outposts during battles. However, stairs would eventually go on to be more than just amendments to the landscape - they would help shape modern civilization.

According to Templer, the oldest staircase in existence is thought to be a structure in Jericho, Israel, which predates Christianity and many other modern religions. Other staircases throughout the world are thought to be close contenders for the title of oldest, including one in Sicily that is estimated to date back to before 480 B.C.

Today, stairs are made out of all manner of materials and are appreciated for their artistry as much as their functionality.

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