History and Design of Inca Suspension Bridges

Dumbarton Oaks and the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress


Engineering in the Andes Mountains: History and Design of Inca Suspension Bridges

John Ochsendorf
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Thursday, 8 December, 5:30 pm
Whittall Pavilion, Jefferson Building, Library of Congress
(10 First Street, S.E.)

In the difficult terrain of the Andes Mountains, the engineers of the Inca Empire built suspension
bridges of natural fiber to span wide canyons and rivers. These remarkable bridges connected an
extensive network of roads and were essential for the organization of the empire. In the sixteenth century, Spanish conquistadors marveled at the Inca bridge technology, which was unknown to them and which spanned longer distances than any bridges in Europe at the time. Many Inca suspension bridges survived through the nineteenth century and one such bridge is still in use today in a remote region of Peru. This lecture will relate the results of the author's fieldwork in Peru, archival research, and engineering analyses, which provide new insights into the history and design of Inca suspension bridges.

John Ochsendorf is assistant professor of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, where he researches the history and technology of ancient structures. Trained in
structural engineering and archaeology, Ochsendorf has been conducting research on Inca suspension bridges for over ten years. He earned a B.Sc. in structural engineering at Cornell and an M.Sc. in civil and environmental engineering at Princeton before going to the University of Cambridge where he completed his Ph.D. He is the author of numerous articles on Inca engineering and other topics, and has been the recipient of numerous grants, awards, and other honors, including a Fulbright Fellowship to Spain in 2000 and the Edoardo Benvenuto Prize in 2003.

The lecture is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and must be reserved no later
than 48 hours in advance by contacting Jai Alterman ([202] 339-6444 or altermanj@doaks.org). Please request ADA accommodations and sign-language interpretation five days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or ada@loc.gov