Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ancient Braide Rope (c. 17,000 B.C.E)

Fibers are twisted into a valuable tool.

One of the oldest artifacts in the world, rope is still extensively used in many environments. It seems unlikely that it will be replaced for many years. Traditionally made from the natural fibers such as hemp, jute, or coir, rope is now also made from synthetic materials such as nylon and even steel.

Rope is a braided fiber, twisted to form a supple, strong medium. Its strenght is tensile, so its main use is to link objects, one of which acts as a stable anchor for the others to hang from or pull against. The oldest evidence of man-made rope was found in the caves of Lascaux, southwest France, and date from 17,000 B.C.E. Rope has always been used to tie and carry prey, making it an essential hunting tool.

Before machinery made it possible to create long lengths of rope, essential in sailing ships, weaving fibers was done by hand - an arduous process. The ancient Egyptians developed the first tool for weaving rope, which they used to move huge stones. Machines for spinning long lengths of rope were later housed in buildings called cake-walks, or roperies, which could be upto 300 yards long. A prime example of such a ropery exists in the farmer naval dockyard in Chatham, England, where rope is still produced on the premises after nearly 300 years. This ropery, 440 yards(400m) long, was built in 1720 and at that time was the longest building in England.