Hemp is one of the plants that have been used for the longest time in human history. There are records of hemp use by the Chinese that go back as far as 10,000 years.
The name hemp makes reference to the Cannabis genus, although it is more commonly associated with the species that are used for industrial production.
The fiber of hemp, which is sometimes called bast, is probably the first material that was used to make man made ropes. Hemp rope proved to be incredibly popular and useful for centuries. It was a basic tool for almost every daily work activity, like fishing, hunting, building, sailing, etc. And as civilizations grew bigger and more complex, they came up with new uses, applications, or inventions for hemp rope. For example, pulleys, bridges, and gate opening mechanisms used hemp rope due to its flexibility and strength. Perhaps the most somber application of hemp rope was to be used for hanging prisoners, criminals, or war or political enemies.
It wasn’t until the 18 th century, when new natural and synthetic materials were developed, that hemp rope started to be replaced by other types of rope. Albaca and manila started to be used for rope making, and then, when synthetic materials came, nylon and polyester ropes became the norm for the most demanding of jobs.
Nevertheless, even after the arrival of these materials, hemp rope is still popular in several parts of the world because it’s cheap to produce and easy to manufacture. And for the people who have kept a style of life that included hemp rope, it makes no sense to get a more expensive type of rope when the one they’ve been using for years works just fine.
For a natural fiber rope, hemp rope is extremely resistant and durable. It is not only able to hold a very good amount of weight, but it is also strong against ultraviolet rays and mold.
In order to keep hemp rope in good conditions, some people tarnish it with linseed oil and gum turpentine. This mix will retain the qualities of a hemp rope for a long time. In the past, before such solutions were available, sailors would tar their ropes in order to keep them from rotting in middle of the sea. This was a common task for them, and had to be done constantly, since the ropes were the ones that held the sails together. In addition, they were used for fastening cargo and directing the ship, so it was a very important chore to keep them in good state.
Hemp rope is not as common as it used to be, but it refuses to die. Only time will tell if hemp will survive or become a souvenir from the past.