More than 5 centuries ago along the 23,000 km in which the Inca trail to Machu Picchu develops, an extensive network of Inca bridges, made with fibers and another type of braided materials, were built and erected, with target of solving all the geographical features of the road.
«The Incas were the only ancient American civilization to develop the hanging bridges.»
Historians say that this vast network of Inca bridges surprised the Spanish soldiers since they had never seen anything like it in Europe. In a recent research paper, he notes that «The Incas were the only ancient American civilization to develop the hanging bridges.»
The bridges are one of the technological marvels of the Inca civilization. The network of Inca bridges, made with natural fibers strands woven from grass and wood, was the technological solution to solve the problem of road construction on rough terrain such as mountains, cliffs or rivers. According to some estimates, it is estimated that in the sixteenth century the network consisted of at least 200 bridges.
The Inca bridges system meant improvements in the infrastructure and road system of the trail, facilitating greater communication between Cuzco, the capital of the empire and the remotest places of the wide and vast empire. Improving the displacement of people, soldiers, priests or population, and goods of agricultural and craft products.
How many types of Inca bridges were there?
The Inca bridges were constructed based on the topographic characteristics of the place, the material available in the area and the importance of the work. Depending on the type of construction and material, the bridges that existed in the Inca Trail can be classified in:
Trunks bridges: the simplest of all. Built with logs (between 2 and 4) leaning on rocks or small towers built in places where the banks narrowed more. Later, sticks were tied, with ropes made of straw, stones and ready to be able to cross them.
Hanging bridges: They were made by hemp ropes and braided strings of «Ichu». Bridges of this type were known as «Simp’achaka» or «twisted bridge». Today we can see this type of bridge in Qheswachaka that is above the Apurimac River.
Stone Bridges: Similar to trunks bridges, it differs in its construction materials.
Oroyas: consisted of a kind of cables made by very thick hemp rope. It was attached to the thick trees and allowed products to be transported, sliding through them.
Floating bridges: used to cross above water and were made with different types of plant fibers. The most famous Inca bridge of this typology is located on the bridge of the Desaguadero River (Lake Titicaca), on the border between Puno and Bolivia.