History of Bridges

Timber and stone age
The desires to cross to the other side of a river or gorge were caused by the need to have
ripe fruits or fertile land or animals for hunting.

Hence, stones or boulders dropped into a shallow stream were used as stepping stone
bridging the adjacent banks. For a deeper flowing stream, a tree dropped between banks
saved as a bridge. It is from this bridging logs that the idea of a simple beam bridge was
born.

In the present day Peru forests and Himalaya foothills, crude rope bridges span deep
gorges and fast flowing streams to maintain path ways from village to village.

Around 4000BC, the secret of arch construction was discovered, and was firstly applied in
the valley of rivers Tigris and Euphrates. Around 2475BC, Egyptians had mastered the
arch principle and applied it to construct temples and pyramids. Records of bridges in
Greek, Middle East and Khuzistan date back from 600BC to 400AD.

The Romans
The Romans were the first nation who took arch construction into action and developed it
in their Empire; Mediterranean and Europe. They built roads and bridges for they knew
that their success depended on efficient permanent communication. The Romans
produced the true bridge engineers in the history of mankind.

Dark Ages and the brothers of Bridge
As the Roman Empire collapsed, it seems that the light of development stopped for a long
time. The Huns, Visigoths, Saxons, Mongols, and Danes didn’t do much building as they
raided Europe and Asia. The light of development was left to the Church which was then
spreading Christianity together with building roads, bridges and various buildings.
Some of the bridges built during this time include Old London Bridge in 1206 and Ponte
de Vecchio in Florence in 1345. The evolution of bridges took place sharply during the
industrial revolution with the discovery of steel. From timber trusses the construction
switched to steel trusses.

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