15

Deep in the mines of Moria, the bridge at Khazad-dûm (Durin's Bridge) spanned a virtually fathomless gap that separated the main part of the Moria superstructure on the western side and the Dimrill Gate on eastern side.

enter image description here

The steps leading to the bridge looked like they could've been easily hewn from the side of the cliff. However, it looks virtually impossible that a solid rock bridge could have been constructed or hewn over the abyss. How was the bridge made and who made it? Unless it was a naturally created bridge smoothed out by the dwarves, it seems unlikely dwarf-craft could have built it.

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    I guess they couldn't have dug the chasm from solid rock: it's too deep even for the dwarves. Unless they only dug out the top part, and realized that they had just uncovered a much deeper chasm. – Molag Bal Jun 16 '16 at 21:37
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    I was made out of pixels by a series of guys sat in a studio eating toaster pockets and drinking sprite. – Valorum Jun 16 '16 at 22:17
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    Book description "a slender bridge of stone, without kerb or rail, that spanned the chasm with one curbing spring of fifty feet." That's all he gives us. – Matt Gutting Jun 17 '16 at 3:37
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    Very, very, very carefully. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 17 '16 at 20:22
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    It's not much more complicated than Roman bridges made with stone blocks. Logistical issues with building underground, but the dwarves seemed to have that all worked out. – John Meacham Jun 20 '16 at 4:36
19

We don't know

No writings I've been able to find discuss the construction of the bridge in any level of detail. Any of the possibilities discussed in the question comments are feasible:

  • As proposed by amaranth, they could have dug out the cavern around the bridge, potentially uncovering a larger, natural cavern below1
  • As proposed by HorusKol and maguirenumber6, it may actually be built out of stone blocks, but the seams are either hidden by Dwarf-craft or too faint for us to see
  • As proposed in the question itself, it could have been a natural "bridge", merely shaped by the Dwarves into the shape they wanted

However, I would question the claim that the Dwarves couldn't have constructed a bridge that looked like (and was as strong as) a single, unbroken piece of stone. Such a technique is used to hide their doors, including the West-gate of Moria itself:

[W]here are the Doors? I can't see any sign of them.'

'Dwarf-doors are not made to be seen when shut,' said Gimli. `They are invisible, and their own masters cannot find them or open them, if their secret is forgotten.'

[...]

[S]ilently a great doorway was outlined, though not a crack or joint had been visible before.

Fellowship of the Ring Book II Chapter 4: "A Journey in the Dark"

Or the back-door of Erebor:

It was not a cave and was open to the sky above; but at its inner end a flat wall rose up that in the lower part, close to the ground, was as smooth and upright as mason's work, but without a joint or crevice to be seen. No sign was there of post or lintel or threshold, nor any sign of bar or bolt or key-hole; yet they did not doubt that they had found the door at last.

The Hobbit Chapter 11: "On the Doorstep"

It's worth remembering that Dwarves are preternaturally skilled miners, carvers, and stone-workers; techniques that seem impossible to us are not necessarily beyond their abilities.


1 It's doubtful, though not impossible, that they carved the whole thing, since Gimli says that none know how deep it goes, and Gandalf discusses tunnels at that depth not made by Dwarvish hands:

'Deep is the abyss that is spanned by Durin's Bridge, and none has measured it,' said Gimli.

[...]

'We fought far under the living earth, where time is not counted. Ever he clutched me, and ever I hewed him, till at last he fled into dark tunnels. They were not made by Durin's folk, Gimli son of Glóin. Far, far below the deepest delving of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things.

The Two Towers Book III Chapter 5: "The White Rider"

  • "gnawed by nameless things" does not sound like 'natural' cavern formation. – DaaaahWhoosh Jun 17 '16 at 20:22
5

Tolkien doesn't describe how the bridge was constructed. We are simply told that it is

A slender bridge of stone, without kerb or rail, that spanned the chasm with one curbing spring of fifty feet.

I'm no dwarf, but if I were handed this as a problem to solve, I would build the bridge in stages:

  1. A rope bridge that starts with throwing ropes to helpers on the other side of the chasm and attaching them to something firm.
  2. A wooden bridge built with the help of the rope bridge but in the curved shape of the final bridge. As discussed in the comments, this might be done in stages with a light version built first, and then reinforced.
  3. A stone bridge built on top of the wooden bridge. Again, as discussed in the comments, this might be done in stages with light versions first that support later, heavier versions.
  4. Once the keystone of the stone bridge is in place, it would be able to stand by itself and the wooden and rope bridges could be dismantled.

As lfurini points out in the comments, the Romans built many bridges with spans of 50 feet or more. For example the Roman Bridge at Vaison-la-Romaine with a span of 17 m (more than 55 feet).

By maarjaara - originally posted to Flickr as Roman bridge, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6216115

I think we can assume that dwarves were more skilled builders than the Romans.

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    That's going to be a seriously strong wooden bridge, but I imagine that the dwarves could build one. – Molag Bal Jun 17 '16 at 20:14
  • @amaranth I agree. If I were reckless enough to attempt this feat, that is the part I would be most worried about. Most likely a light wooden bridge would be built first and then it would be reinforced until it was strong enough the support the stones. The stone bridge might be built in similar stages. – Blackwood Jun 17 '16 at 20:18
  • I wonder if they had access to trees of mythical strength, beyond what you can find in woods today. – Molag Bal Jun 17 '16 at 20:30
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    @amaranth I am no engineer, but I don't think super-strength wood is needed; of course, you can't build a stone bridge over a flimsy 50 ft wooden plank, but a wooden centring can sustain a stone arch while it is being built; once complete, the arch is self-supporting and can be further built upon. Many Roman bridges have arches spanning 50 ft or more. – lfurini Jun 18 '16 at 7:32

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