• Tue. Mar 21st, 2023

Dizzying Inca Rope Bridges Were Grass-Made Marvels of Engineering


Mar 4, 2023

Spanish conquistadors could not imagine their eyes whereas exploring the rugged terrain of the Andes throughout their invasion of Peru. On coming into Inca territory within the sixteenth century, they had been greatly surprised by the superior highway system often called the Qhapaq Ñan . Nonetheless, the engineering that actually left them speechless had been the awe-inspiring rope bridges , crafted and maintained by Inca communities with nothing however woven grass.

The huge Inca Empire was united by an unimaginable road network spanning over 25,000 miles (40,000 km). This spectacular system traversed the cruel mountainous terrain of the Andes and ran alongside the coast, linking Ecuador within the north to Chile and Argentina within the south. It was a outstanding feat of engineering, designed to attach and maintain the expansive Inca civilization.

Created fully by hand, Inca engineers had been undaunted by their geography, creating paths by means of deserts and mountain passes. To bridge the numerous rivers and cross perilous ravines, their suspension bridges had been the longest of the pre-industrial age; the Apurimac Bridge close to modern-day Curahuasi measured 148 ft (45 m). In line with The New York Times , “no less than 200 such suspension bridges spanned river gorges within the sixteenth century.”

For the Spanish, rope bridges had been unimaginable and terrifying in equal measure. “When the bridge is being crossed, it trembles very a lot, in order that it could possibly make any not accustomed to it dizzy,” famous Pedro Sancho, in his chronicle of the conquest of Peru in 1534.

The longest of the Inca rope bridges, measuring 148 ft (45 m), hung throughout the Apurimac River close to modern-day Curahuasi. This drawing by American archaeologist E. George Squier was included in an 1877 guide on Peru. ( Public domain )

Developed from the thirteenth century onwards, Inca rope bridges had been made out of perishable supplies similar to willow, reeds and wild grasses, which had been then woven and braided to create cords and cables. They had been additionally designed to be disassembled shortly, which was significantly helpful in occasions of warfare.

Through the time of the Incas, key bridges had been sorted by supervisors tasked with upkeep. In the meantime, because of the harsh local weather and the ensuing restricted lifespan, native communities had been roped into sustaining and reweaving the bridges yearly or two, a facet famous in a number of Spanish chronicles and which continued into the twentieth century.

The Queshuachaca bridge, named after the Quechua for “grass” and “bridge,” which additionally crosses the Apurimac River close to Huinchiri in Peru, is continuously reported to be the last surviving Inca rope bridge . It’s rebuilt each two years throughout a pageant which brings collectively the encircling communities and embodies the social group and values of Andean tradition.

Inca rope bridges proved ultimate for his or her surroundings, because the cussed Spaniards learnt the laborious manner by means of failed makes an attempt to erect European-style bridges. Changed by metallic cable bridges within the nineteenth century after which fashionable roads, there’s little left behind of what was as soon as a rare instance of sustainable engineering.

Prime picture: Lady crossing the Queshuachaca Inca rope bridge close to Huinchiri in Peru. Supply: Danita Delimont / Adobe Inventory

By Cecilia Bogaard

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