Ropes and knots are among the most ancient and useful technologies ever developed by man, predating the wheel, the axe and probably also the use of fire. Today, they are fast on their way to become an obsolete technology.
The sheer number and diversity of knots that was once in use would be bewildering to the modern city-dweller. About 4,000 different knots are described, ranging from the very simple to the extremely complex.
Not so long ago, each profession or trade had adopted the knots best suited to its requirements, and knotting was part of their daily lives. There are some good knotting reference books available online, and all of them are older than most of us.
From the earliest civilisations right up to the start of the Industrial Revolution, humans used sheer muscle power, organisation skills and ingenious mechanics to lift weights that would be impossible to handle by most power cranes in operation today.