"Although scholars have studied the Inca road system’s importance in forging and controlling the pre-Columbian empire, John A.Ochsendorf of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology here said, “Historians and archaeologists have neglected the role of bridges.”
Dr. Ochsendorf’s research on Inca suspension bridges, begun while he was an undergraduate at Cornell University, illustrates an engineering university’s approach to archaeology, combining materials science and experimentation with the traditional fieldwork of observing and dating artifacts. Other universities conduct research in archaeological materials, but it has long been a specialty at M.I.T.
Students here are introduced to the multidisciplinary investigation of ancient technologies as applied in transforming resources into cultural hallmarks from household pottery to grand pyramids. In a course called “materials in human experience,” students are making a 60-foot-long fiber bridge in the Peruvian style. On Saturday, they plan to stretch the bridge across a dry basin between two campus buildings."