10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Inca Rope Bridges

There were over 200 rope bridges in the Inca empire. Unfortunately, none have survived except for one.

Inca rope bridges are known as simple suspension bridges that were constructed in the olden days by the Inca empire. The said bridges played a significant role in the road system mainly because the people of Inca had no wheeled transportations. They used these bridges to cover long distances. The rope bridges served for centuries, and the people of Peru kept renovating them for about 600 years.

Inca rope bridge
Inca rope bridge. Nat Geo
Jarava ichu
Jarava ichu. Source: Wikimedia Commons
The bridge-building festival.
The bridge-building festival. Source: Pinterest

Following are ten intriguing facts regarding the rope bridges of Peru:

1) Most of the Inca bridges have been destroyed as they were made up of feathergrass ropes. They could not withstand the weather despite being renovated for approximately 600 years.

2) There’s one last Inca bridge that is located in the southern side of Peru; over 1,000 workers gather for three consecutive days in June to work on the restoration of the last Inca bridge known as Q’eswachaka.

3) The restoration of the bridge is considered a traditional practice in Peru. Multiple people come out of their homes to renovate the last Inca bridge so they could remain attached to their roots.

4) The last Inca rope bridge, Q’eswachaka, is made up of dried maguey or Peruvian feathergrass.

5) The people of Peru consider Q’eswachaka an integral and sacred historical part of their lives.

6) The villagers accumulate new stock, dismantle the old bridge and start to assemble the replacement. Once the work is finished, a massive celebration begins where the workers dance and fulfil traditional rituals.

7) Most of the Inca bridges were 28 meters long and 1.20 meters wide. All were made up of Peruvian feathergrass or Jarava Ichu.

8) The Q’eswachaka is the only rope bridge that has survived modernity and continues to pass its ritual from one generation to another.

9) It is quite dangerous to repair the bridge while standing on it, but people still do it.

10) In the olden days, the bridges were maintained by the communities nearby, as part of their mit’a – the Inca taxation system.

Let’s summarise what we learned:

The people of the Inca empire were quite advanced. They knew they didn’t have wheeled transports, so they built massive bridges for their convenience. It was absolutely necessary to build bridges as the people of Inca lived in the mountainous region. The Andes mountain range is a place of massive cliffs, torrents and valleys. Hence, rope bridges were necessary for the people of Inca.

As stated before, it was necessary for the empire to have bridges. The Incas, however, did not spend years in building stone structures. Their sole focus was on alternative and quick methods. The Peruvian feathergrass or Jarava Ichu can be easily found in the mountainous region of Peru. All of the rope bridges were constructed with dried Jarava Ichu. 

Yes, constructing rope bridges required quite a lot of labour, but people were willing to work. They played their respective roles as part of the Inca taxation process. There were over 200 rope bridges in the Inca empire. Unfortunately, none have survived except for one. 

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