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A bridge is a structure built to span physical obstacles without closing the way underneath such as a body of water, valley, or road, for the purpose of providing passage over the obstacle. There are many different designs that each serve a particular purpose and apply to different situations. Designs of bridges vary depending on the function of the bridge, the nature of the terrain where the bridge is constructed and anchored, the material used to make it, and the funds available to build it.
The Oxford English Dictionary traces the origin of the word bridge to an Old English word brycg, of the same meaning. The word can be traced directly back to Proto-Indo-European *bʰrēw-. The word for the card game of the same name has a different origin.
The first bridges made by humans were probably spans of cut wooden logs or planks and eventually stones, using a simple support and crossbeam arrangement. Some early Americans used trees or bamboo poles to cross small caverns or wells to get from one place to another. A common form of lashing sticks, logs, and deciduous branches together involved the use of long reeds or other harvested fibers woven together to form a huge rope capable of binding and holding together the materials used in early bridges.
The Arkadiko Bridge is one of four Mycenaean corbel arch bridges part of a former network of roads, designed to accommodate chariots, between the fort of Tiryns and town of Epidauros in the Peloponnese, in southern Greece. Dating to the Greek Bronze Age (13th century BC), it is one of the oldest arch bridges still in existence and use. Several intact arched stone bridges from the Hellenistic era can be found in the Peloponnese.
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