The Bridge at Q’eswachaka
July 25, 2015 5:02 PM   Subscribe

The last remaining Inca rope bridge is the Q'eswachaka, spanning the Apurimac River in Peru. Even though there is a modern bridge nearby, the residents of the region keep the ancient tradition and skills alive by renewing the bridge annually, in June. Several family groups have each prepared a number of grass-ropes to be formed into cables at the site, others prepare mats for decking, and the reconstruction is a communal effort. In 2009 the government recognized the bridge and its maintenance as part of the cultural heritage of Peru.
posted by growabrain (17 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting. Thanks for posting this.
posted by francesca too at 5:41 PM on July 25, 2015

Neat video! I liked the image of the new paved road being used as an open ground on which to carry out the centuries-old ritual of stretching out the rope cables. It's a pity there aren't any more bridges like this one left... wonder if the master bridgemaker has trained up any apprentices for the future?
posted by puffyn at 5:59 PM on July 25, 2015

Even though there is a modern bridge nearby,

Wasn't that a gag on The Simpsons? I know I saw this gag on TV - someone's crossing a perilous old bridge (in a vehicle, IIRC) and then they see a modern one nearby.
posted by BiggerJ at 6:33 PM on July 25, 2015

That is a huge amount of work, but with an amazing result. I wish the video had shown how they anchored the cables to the rock on each side.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:53 PM on July 25, 2015

A Dozen Indigenous Craftsman From Peru Will Weave Grass into a 60-Foot Suspension Bridge on the Mall in Washington DC. "It will hang from several decorated containers (in lieu of vertical cliff faces)."
posted by Rash at 6:55 PM on July 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

I now have an even more compelling reason to go back to Peru. I wonder if they'd let me help with the stretching? looks like fun.
thanks for the post.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:28 PM on July 25, 2015

Does the rainbow flag at 3 minutes in mean to them what it means to us? If so, that's really cool! If not, I'm curious how they interpret it!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:45 AM on July 26, 2015

The use of the rainbow flag in Peru apparently dates from the 1920's as a symbol of Inca culture.

See. for more details.
posted by grimjeer at 5:30 AM on July 26, 2015

Anyone else read 1491? Communities in South America were the masters of ropework. A summary from somehere else:
"The American Indians were not only more numerous, but culturally and technically more sophisticated than I was taught they were. While civilization in the Eastern Hemisphere originated in fertile river valleys, the Andean Indians established a civilization on the slopes of some of the world’s highest mountains. Their basic technology was not metallurgy, but weaving; they had effective armor made of tightly woven cloth, and strong bridges across deep chasms made of rope. They kept records in the form of knotted strings, and some researchers now think these may have been the equivalent of a written language. If so there may be a record of a rich culture that we can’t read."

posted by leotrotsky at 6:40 AM on July 26, 2015 [5 favorites]

+1 for '1491'. So good I just reread it. It's shaken up my assumptions and reshaped my world view more than any history book I've read in a decade.
posted by namasaya at 8:55 AM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

So if they bring the new cables across the old bridge, how did someone make the first bridge?
posted by RobotHero at 10:07 AM on July 26, 2015

A rock. Tie a rock to a string, hold other end of string, throw rock across. Tie a rope to the string, drag it across.

The real question is how did the first person get to the other side to catch the rock!? It's a mystery...
posted by whatnotever at 10:32 AM on July 26, 2015

The first guy waded the river somewhere up or downstream. Then came the string tied to a rock stuff. There may have been some early-day experiments that didn't work out so well.

Peruvian textiles are amazing. So is their dancing. Also, I like the idea of every individual being obliged to perform an act of civic service. I imagine it's a point of pride as well as a social obligation.

++good, 1491
posted by mule98J at 11:01 AM on July 26, 2015

whatnotever: "The real question is how did the first person get to the other side to catch the rock!? It's a mystery..."

posted by RobotHero at 11:08 AM on July 26, 2015

1491 was remarkable -- but so was 1493 (how the world changed).
posted by jrochest at 2:12 PM on July 26, 2015

And, of course, there were two groups of people, one on either side. Much easier than trying to find a ford.
posted by jrochest at 2:13 PM on July 26, 2015

The exhibition on the Great Inka Road currently at the National Museum of the American Indian is fantastic from both an engineering and a sociology/anthropology point of view. Definitely recommended if you're in the area. The bridge-building on the Mall that Rash linked to above was part of it.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 7:07 PM on July 26, 2015

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