Suburban Stone Age

Primitive Technology, Sustainable Life


How to Make Cordage

In this series, we’ve traced the timeline of human technology back from the earliest tools found over 2 million years ago, through the use of controlled fire, building shelters, and using skins for clothing as far back as 320,00 years ago. But from here, things get a little hazy.

Many of the most important primitive technologies are not made from durable items such as stone, and therefore leave very little evidence of use in the archaeological record. In today’s video, we branch off and start to explore some of the ancient technologies that were essential to human survival, but that are difficult to find and date, such as cordage.

Some of the earliest evidence of cordage being made and used dates back to approximately 40,000 years ago. But from a practical point of view, I would suspect it has been made for much longer than that. For example, cordage goes along hand in hand with sewing skins for clothes, and the evidence for that goes back hundreds of thousands of years.

Today we’ll learn how to make cordage, which is still as important a skill as it was thousands and thousands of years ago.

The easiest material to use for cordage comes from plants. Some are better than others, but the best plants are the ones with long fibers that are durable and strong when twisted and dried. Yucca is an example of this type of plant from my local area, but all around the world that are local plants that will perform just as well.

The first step to making cordage is to extract the fibers from the plant. In my case, soaking the yucca fibers to loosen the outer cuticle of the leaves, and then scraping the fibers clean is the most simple preparation.

Once fibers have been prepared, they need to be twisted together for additional strength and length. This will make single ply cordage.

But additional strength can be added from there. By twisting the single plies together in the opposite directions from their twist, you have made twine. Congratulations, you have made your first rope!

From here, it is simply a matter of refining the process. You can make even stronger rope by twisting more plies, or experiment with different foundation materials based on your needs. The sky is the limit from here!

In conclusion, I suspect making cordage is a much older skill that we have found evidence for. Without it, shelters, weapons, clothes, and even fire would have been almost impossible to create.

This ancient skill is as handy and useful today as it was thousands of years ago, and I recommend you go out into the world and explore what might make good cordage for you in your local area.

Thanks for watching!