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Published: 27/07/2023

The Oldest Bridges


According to some sources, the first real evidence of bridge-building technology was all the way back in 4000BC; it's quite unlikely any bridges from that era are still standing however it's interesting to see how many bridges have still stood the test of time.


Image Credit: Davide Mauro - Wikimedia Commons

The Oldest Standing Bridge – Kazarma Bridge, Greece


Many people believe that the Mycenaean Bridge of Arkadiko, otherwise known as Kazarma Bridge, is the oldest standing bridge in the world. Located in Argolis, Greece, the bridge can still be crossed today despite reportedly being built somewhere between 1300 and 1190 BC.


The arch bridge was built by the Mycenaeans on a road that linked Tiryns to Epidaurus and can still be crossed by pedestrians today. Despite this, archaeologists actually predict that it was built for the use of chariots, as its curbs are designed to guide horse-drawn chariots through.


The bridge is made up of limestone boulders, small stones and pieces of tile; it measures in at an impressive 72 feet long and 18 foot wide.


Image Credit: The Best of Exmoor Blog

The UK's Oldest Bridge - The Clapper Bridge at Tarr Steps


Historians believe that the UK's oldest bridge is The Clapper Bridge at Tarr Steps in Exmoor National Park. It is reported that the bridge was first mentioned in Tudor times but may be much older.


However if you believe folklore tales, some say that the bridge was built by the devil who promised to kill anyone who attempted to cross. The tale then later says that eventually the devil conceded, allowing people to cross. That was with one exception however – when the devil is sunbathing.


The bridge is approximately 177 feet long, and is the longest of the the clapper bridges left in Britain. It's made up of large stone slabs and boulders, which is actually where it gets its name from as clapper comes from the Latin term claperius which translates roughly to pile of stones.


As a result of this, it has had to be repaired many times over the years as Exmoor National Park reported that stones of up to two tonnes have been washed up to 50 metres downstream. Unfortunately the bridge was damaged in the January 2023 floods, but it is expected that the bridge will be repaired once again.


Image Credit: BBC Travel

A Very Unique Bridge - Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge


Predicted to date back over 180 years, the Umshiang Root Bridge isn't as old as the other bridges in this list; however, the nature of this bridge means that it is a well-deserved addition.

The bridge is located in Meghalaya, Northern India, where the land is filled with luscious green mountains and forests. As idyllic as this sounds, the area is known as the wettest place on earth with an average annual rainfall of approximately 11,800mm. For comparison, the UK has an approximate average annual rainfall of around 1,300mm.


It was for that reason that the indigenous Khasi people needed to get creative. During the heavy rain seasons, the paths that they would typically take became unusable; according to research, they would originally build bridges from bamboo however these bridges would rot and break due to the weather and climate conditions, often leaving people stranded.


After some trial and error, they later realised that they could use the trees in the area to build structures; to do this, they trained the tree roots to knit together and after time they became strong enough to support people. The bridges actually get stronger over time, and take practically no maintenance as they grow and strengthen over time.


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