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Rope BridgeA very scary looking rickety rope bridge crosses a river at Rampur, India, circa 1870.

These types of bridges were often the only way to cross rivers in India and South East Asia. They can still be found in the more impoverished, rural parts. They are not quite suspension bridges because there is nothing pulling the main segment upwards. They are more like a lax rope.

Despite the fact that they look like death traps, the bridges were quite resilient and sturdy. They were made of woven plant fibers, probably hemp, so they had extra strength, much like woven steel cables, and they were also highly flexible which allowed them to sway with the wind without any danger of breaking. However, these advantages were also their drawbacks. The bridges had no floor planks so only the most sure footed pedestrians could walk from one knotted cross section to the next. They were also terrifying.

Close up of Bridge

Closeup of the Brave Soul About to Cross the Bridge

The Ropes

Rope bridges could be built out of cheaply available local materials. You did not even need nails or anything besides woven hemp ropes. The artisanal nature of the bridge allowed it to be built without engineering plans or drawings. The builders did not need any special skills, which made them well-suited to rural areas of pre-modern India, before automobiles made these kind of bridges obsolete.

This article was last updated on April 16, 2021.

Jerry Moore

Jerry Moore

Jerry Moore is your guide into the past. An enthusiastic collector of vintage and rare old photographs, Jerry writes about these frozen moments in time and the world that used to be.