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Mundane Bridges in Bronze Age Glorantha


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There are a few well-known examples of bridges from the Bronze Age that have left archaeological evidence. Among these is the bridge across the Tollense River in Northern Germany which became the site for one of the oldest massive field battles known in human history, and the remains of a Bronze Age bridge across or at least into the River Thames at Vauxhall.

Both these sites (and a number more in Britain) were wooden constructions, and probably used wooden causeways in their approaches across marshy terrain, as are known from many Bronze and Iron Age sites. In all these cases, the bridges are mainly identified by the posts remaining after millennia.

When it comes to ancient stone bridges, this site only has two which date into Bronze Age - one in Devonshire across a minor river, created with stone slabs, and the other a Minoan arch across a ravine.

The list has a few more stone arch bridges of somewhat more sophistication which survived in Anatolia, a region well known for its regularly occurring earth quakes. For these bridges to survive into our times, they must have been both extraordinarily sturdy and lucky. 

The oldest extant Chinese bridge I found is quite sophisticated, but only about 1400 years old. Looking at the architecture tells me that it comes from a long tradition of building arch bridges, though.

There are a few non-permanent bridges and river crossings from history that deserve mention, like Xerxes' pontoon bridge across the Bosporus, or the Rhine crossings recorded by Caesar - both the Roman pontoon construction and the Suebian shield wall to create a fordable passage.

Not to mention rope bridges (used e.g. by the Inca), or "aldryami" bridges using Ficus trees shaped into a causeway.

 

Glorantha's presumably oldest bridge was destroyed or at least submerged in Zzabur's Breaking of the World. Built by the Mostali of Thakarn to connect with their Vadeli allies, this monumental bridge spanned the Senbanth Sea, an extension of the Neliomi Sea, apparentlly in one enormous arch.

With the architectural expertise of the Mostali established, there are a number of impressive stone arch bridges built by Mostali around the Greatway colony, like the bridge across Dwerrow River in Balazar and the bridges across the Zola Fel, built by the Pavis dwarves in cooperation with the river cult, high enough to allow passage for giant cradles (even the new one connecting New Pavis with Badside), and the bridge across the Stream River at Quackford, also a dwarf-supported project.

With these examples, human builders certainly followed suit early on.

The entrance to the Brass Citadel of Sog City shows a draw bridge connecting to an arch and at least two, probably four elements of flat causeway outside that charming arched gate built from mortared natural stone with some mixture of blockhouse or clinker planking and ship's architecture on top of it.

Ancient Danmalastan architecture apparently knows opus caementitium, aka ancient concrete. Good enough to build arches and domes, as the Pantheon in Rome proves. The God Learners would have spread such technology to their colonies, but their association and the massive seismic event which ended their episode probably put an end to that material in most Third Age technology other than Mostali.

 

 

Bridging a major river remains problematic, though. Unless you have the river at the bottom of a rocky crevice, building a bridge has to allow for the seasonal floodings and the occasional catastrophic flood (though not capital F Flood, even though we are heading towards one in the predictable future of coastal Glorantha). Lumber transport needs to be able to pass bridges across rivers - whether in rafts created by wood cutters, or as debris in the Storm and Sea Season floodings in Genertela, or the monsoon season in Pamaltela and typhoon season in the East Isles.

The huge seismic events starting 1049 in Seshnela, 1050 in Caladraland and 1052 (?) in Kralorela probably destroyed most earlier bridges, leaving us with rather recent architectural history of bridge-building to discuss for southern Genertela.

 

The most impressive bridges in modern Glorantha are the ramp to the edge of the Crater in Glamour, the viaducts and even more so the river crossings of the Daughter's Road, the viaducts of the roads to Boldhome, the floating city of Dumanaba on the mouth of the Baruling river, and Godunya's dragon rune complex across the Suam Chow. Belintar's rainbow bridges are just a memory of a phantasmagoric past now.

 

Around the Choralinthor Bay, I don't see evidence for permanent bridges across major rivers in Esrolia. With the memory of the Devastation of the Vent, I wonder whether the Esrolians invest in stone arches, or whether they prefer wooden constructs (think River Kwai Bridge) between access dams which also serve to fill reservoirs for their irrigation works.

The Solthi bridges at Jansholm that I posited to resemble Lutetia's Roman bridges when I first wrote my gazetteer of Heortland connect the river island with both shores. The Solthi is not a major river, but still has an impressive estuary into the Choralinthor Bay. Jansholm may even have been spared the worst of the Devastation of the Vent, so its bridges may be some of the oldest in coastal Genertela.

The Marzeel at Vingaford doesn't seem to have a permanent bridge.

Belintar is known for his magical bridges, but those are more immaterial. The river crossing at Backford most probably predates his arrival.

 

The Syphon probably floods when all the other rivers do so, too, but there may be an additional counter current of salty water flowing uphill when collecting all the leached wash-out from the snow melt and the spring rains.

The Syphon is a primeval watercourse, "flowing uphill", not a level surface but a tendril of ocean poking inland, reaching out to the Chaos hole left by Larnste stomping the squirmy thing we assume was Krarsht. A multi-arched bridge like that would certainly interfere with the river's power and shape.

At the same time, thinking about fording such an entity takes me aback more than a little, too. @jajagappa's mention of the Syphon being subject to the tides does at least offer certain times which are easier for crossing.

 

The Daughter's Roads do cross the Oslir, possibly twice, at Jillaro - one of them at the shortest distance, the other in an arch maybe thrice as long as it would need to be. Given that the Oslir was described to me as a mile wide (at leat at Raibanth), we are talking a bridge arc here which is more than five miles long, or otherwise a river passing through a barrier of bridge rests.

We know that the Conquering Daughter overcame the Black Eel, and I seem to recall that either the Dara Happans or the Lunars killed all the water spirits in the Oslir in retaliation for a rebellion. Establishing that degree of superiority over a river entity might allow bridging it ("forced consent").

There is no other major Genertelan river that I could name which would be bridged. Janube, Tanier, Noshain, Creek-Stream, Poralistor, Arcos...

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24 minutes ago, Joerg said:

Around the Choralinthor Bay, I don't see evidence for permanent bridges across major rivers in Esrolia. With the memory of the Devastation of the Vent, I wonder whether the Esrolians invest in stone arches, or whether they prefer wooden constructs (think River Kwai Bridge) between access dams which also serve to fill reservoirs for their irrigation works.

It would not surprise me to see bridges across at least some of the major Esrolian rivers given the potential use of gnomes and the Vogarth cult.  However, the Guide only notes:  Jorsh: Garzeen’s Bridge, an arched stone bridge built by Belintar, crosses the Gorphing River here. The shops and houses of merchants have been built atop the bridge.

Valadon is noted as being 'fordable'.  Nochet has a chain across the Lyksos and uses a ferry.  Monros has a ferry.  Pennel is noted for its ford.  The Necropolis is an island, so probably no bridge.

35 minutes ago, Joerg said:

the Syphon being subject to the tides does at least offer certain times which are easier for crossing.

Yes, I can imagine that it alternates between ferry and ford.  But the locals not only have to track the tides, but also assess rain in the Syphon's watershed that will flow into the Syphon and then get directed uphill!

37 minutes ago, Joerg said:

The Daughter's Roads do cross the Oslir, possibly twice, at Jillaro - one of them at the shortest distance, the other in an arch maybe thrice as long as it would need to be.

Even better, the two roads cross just along the western bank of the Oslir at Jillaro forming a wondrous bridge. 🙂 The joint temple to Phirmax and Ingkot Aquaticus is at the junction.  I don't recall the Oslir width at Jillaro - I'm sure buried in my notes somewhere - but I don't think it's yet the mile wide that is at Raibanth.

And speaking of Raibanth, the Guide notes: the massive but severely damaged (broken) Golden Emperor’s Bridge over the river Joat, the Bridge of Seven Luxites (plus Ferry Town), and one other broken bridge.

47 minutes ago, Joerg said:

We know that the Conquering Daughter overcame the Black Eel

Yes, the Crystal Bridge there. 

 

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