Rope is one of humanity's earliest inventions, and there are nearly as many types as there are fibrous materials on earth. It is made by either braiding or twisting some fibrous material together to increase its strength. The use of rope is thought to extend back substantially before recorded history, with the first recorded use occurring in Egypt sometime around 4000 B.C.
Early ropes were made of materials including grass, leather, hair, and reeds. The Egyptians used it in their early building enterprises, employing long strands of rope to move the enormous stones necessary to build the pyramids. The Chinese began using rope made from hemp sometime around 3000 B.C.
Most is of a type known as twisted rope, sometimes called laid rope, which consists of a number of strands of yarn twisted together to make them more sturdy. Each of these strands may be made up of anywhere from a small handful to a large number of smaller strands, each of which is in turn comprised of the basic fibers spun together. Most is made of three strands, a style known as plain rope. Occasionally, rope will be made using four strands instead of the usual three, in which case it is called shroud-laid rope. When even more strength is needed, multiple lengths may be twisted together, forming what is called cable-laid rope.
Modern rope made of synthetics is sometimes of a type known as braided rope. Braided types tend to be much springier than twisted, both because of the synthetic fibers used, and because of the technique used to form it. Some braided rope, however, is intentionally kept very stiff, to ensure little or no stretching during use.
There are three main types of braided rope: a solid braid, a diamond braid with no core, and a diamond braid with a core. Solid braid is extremely strong and cannot be unraveled, even when cut. It is one of the sturdiest types of rope, but cannot be spliced. Diamond braid is the simplest type, in which the ends are woven together tightly. Most diamond braid has a solid core, but some is coreless, in which case it may be spliced together.
Natural rope materials commonly in use include cotton, linen, silk, hemp, manila, jute, and sisal, most of which are derived from plants. Plant-based types tend to be the most popular of the naturally derived ropes, for their strength and stretchability, as well as occasionally water-repellent qualities. Silk was once very popular for its light weight, but due to its relative weakness as a rope material it is rarely used in the modern world.
A wide range of synthetic fibers are used to make rope as well. These include nylon and polyester, as well as a number of proprietary materials such as Kevlar® and Spectra®. Synthetic types usually exhibit a number of highly specialized characteristics, depending on their intended use. Some are almost entirely waterproof, while others offer the ability to stretch far beyond the capacity of any natural fiber. In addition, most synthetic fibers are lighter than their natural counterparts, with a few notable exceptions, such as Kevlar®.