Rediscovering the Lost City

by Jeff L. Brown, Contributing Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE World Headquarters, 1801 Alexander Bell Drive, Reston, VA.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 2001, Vol. 71, Issue 1, Pg. 32-39,74

Document Type: Feature article


Since 1994, Kenneth R. Wright, P.E., of Wright Water Engineers, in Denver, has been studying evidence of civil engineering at the ruins of Machu Picchu—an ancient Inca city in the Andes Mountains in Peru. The Inca had to apply their knowledge of engineering to solve problems of water supply, foundations, and drainage. They found a spring uphill from the site and built a canal to carry the water into the city. The canal ends in a series of 16 fountains that make the water accessible. Wright studied the hydrology of the area and found no basis for the theory that a water shortage caused the Inca to abandon Machu Picchu. The Inca also built a complex drainage infrastructure consisting of channels and outlets that are integrated into the architecture; a main drain to collect runoff from the channels and carry it away from the city; and a subsurface drainage system in the agricultural terraces and urban plazas. Wright's analysis also included building foundations and stonework.

Subject Headings: Urban areas | Water shortage | Municipal water | Foundations | Canals | Subsurface drainage | Drainage systems | Mountains | Denver | Colorado | United States | Andes | Peru | South America

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