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 | Drainage | Subsurface drainage | Foundations | Drainage systems

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