Cover image for Machu Picchu : a civil engineering marvel
Machu Picchu : a civil engineering marvel
Wright, Kenneth R.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Reston, VA : American Society of Civil Engineers, [2000]

Physical Description:
viii, 136 pages : illustrations, maps ; 28 cm
Mystical Machu Picchu : the lost city of the Inca -- Engineering planning -- Hydrology -- Hydraulic engineering -- Drainage infrastructure -- Agriculture -- Building foundations and stone walls -- Construction methods -- Cultural background : Inca heritage -- walking tour : Machu Picchu for civil engineers.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TA52 .W75 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize
TA52 .W75 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize

On Order



Machu Picchu takes readers inside the Lost City of the Incas for a groundbreaking perspective never before seen by tourists or archeologists. Built high in the Andes on a seemingly impossible site, Machu Picchu stands as a testament to Early Native Americans and their ability to plan and build. How was it possible to create a mountain-top city complete with running water, drainage systems, food production, and stone structures so advanced they have endured for over 500 years? Wright and Valencia Zegarra explain these and other mysteries, based on their original engineering and scientific research.

A fascinating book, Machu Picchu is a must-have for civil engineers, archeologists, armchair travelers, and tourists. An illustrated walking guide and detailed map allow readers to become familiar with each building and pathway, and numerous photographs take readers on a breathtaking pictorial adventure.

About the Authors
Kenneth R. Wright, P.E., L.S. is founder and chief engineer of Wright Water Engineers, Inc., a Denver consulting firm specializing in water resources and municipal utility design. He has conducted paleohydrological research at Mesa Verde National Park and Machu Picchu.

Alfredo Valencia Zegarra, Ph.D., was a professor at the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at Cusco, Peru, and a registered professional archaeologist with the Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Peru.

Product Reviews
...a fresh approach to the study of a Peruvian icon. --Monica Barnes, Latin American Indian Literatures Journal

The book tells us as much about the practical challenges of building a city as it does about the mysterious Inca, and it should an immediate hit with armchair archaeologists and fans of the kind of ancient civilization documentaries that are a staple on PBS's Nova. --David Pitt, Booklist

A fascinating look at the ancient Incan city... -- Automated Builder

This engineering focus on the achievement of Machu Picchu will appeal to a wide audience, from civil engineers and archaeologists to travelers and tourists. -- Wisconsin Bookwatch

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Machu Picchu, the famous "Lost City of the Inca," has fascinated and captivated archaeologists for five centuries. The royal estate of Pachacuti, an Inca ruler, was built in the fifteenth century and abandoned barely more than a century after its construction. How could the "primitive" Inca construct a city on top of a mountain? How could they solve the intricate problems of drainage, of water supply, of architecture? This detailed study of the city's construction is downright spellbinding. The prose may be a little dry--its authors, with the exception of attorney Wright, are scientists by trade--but it is also clear and precise. The book tells us as much about the practical challenges of building a city as it does about the mysterious Inca, and it should be an immediate hit with armchair archaeologists and fans of the kind of ancient civilization documentaries that are a staple on PBS's Nova. Pricey but useful wherever there is interest in the topic. --David Pitt

Choice Review

This volume is the most comprehensive architectural and water management study of South America's most famous archaeological site. Built and occupied between 1450-1572 CE, Machu Picchu was the royal estate of Pachacuti, the king who founded the Inca Empire. It was occupied by about 300 retainers, unless Pachacuti was in residence, when the population is estimated at 1,000 people. As the authors demonstrate, Machu Picchu is a superb example of pre-Columbian urban planning and hydraulic engineering. The geology and climate of the site, architecture, construction methods, and water management system of 16 fountains and elaborate drainage systems are discussed in detail. A chapter on Inca history and architecture places Machu Picchu within the context of the Inca Empire. The volume ends with a walking tour of the site, where all of the temples, royal residences, houses, agricultural terraces, and road, staircase, and water systems are identified and described. It is superbly illustrated with 188 photos, drawings, and a detailed map of the site. With this book in hand, professionals, students, and tourists alike will be able to learn more about Machu Picchu than from any other published source. Highly recommended. J. B. Richardson III University of Pittsburgh

Table of Contents

Gordon McEwan, Ph.D.Ruth M. Wright
Prefacep. vii
Chapter 1 Mystical Machu Picchu: The Lost City of the Incap. 1
The Ancient Royal Estatep. 1
The Setting and Geologyp. 2
Ancient Climatep. 4
Site Selectionp. 6
Chapter 2 Engineering Planningp. 9
City Planningp. 9
Engineering Infrastructurep. 15
Chapter 3 Hydrologyp. 17
Location and Waterp. 17
Hydrogeology of the Main Water Sourcep. 17
Spring Collection Worksp. 19
Ancient Domestic Water Requirementsp. 21
Long-Forgotten Water Suppliesp. 23
"The Inca Were Good Engineers"p. 25
Chapter 4 Hydraulic Engineeringp. 26
Overview of Machu Picchu Hydraulic Worksp. 26
Water Supply Canalp. 26
Fountainsp. 31
Unfinished Branch Canalp. 34
Hydraulics in a Nutshellp. 35
Chapter 5 Drainage Infrastructurep. 36
Public Works Achievementp. 36
Agricultural Terracesp. 36
Urban Sectorp. 38
Annual Water Budgetp. 41
Surface Runoff and Drainage Criteriap. 42
Plaza Subsurface Drainagep. 43
Special Drainage Facilitiesp. 44
Chapter 6 Agriculturep. 47
Agricultural Terracesp. 47
Climatological Datap. 48
Hand-Placed Soilp. 51
Crop Water Needsp. 53
Adequacy of Nutrient Productionp. 56
Chapter 7 Building Foundations and Stone Wallsp. 59
Ancient Engineering Carep. 59
Foundationsp. 59
Stone Wallsp. 61
Special Building Stonesp. 65
Chapter 8 Construction Methodsp. 68
High Standard of Carep. 68
Rock Quarryp. 70
Transporting and Lifting Rocksp. 71
Using Wood and Vegetationp. 72
Roof Structuresp. 72
Canal Stonesp. 73
Floors and Plasterp. 73
Abandoned Construction Workp. 74
Change Ordersp. 76
Inca Bridgesp. 76
Renegade Inca Stonemasonsp. 77
Tools of the Tradep. 77
Chapter 9 Cultural Background: Inca Heritagep. 79
Andean Culturep. 79
Andean Technologyp. 81
Inca Historyp. 83
Inca Societyp. 87
Chapter 10 A Walking Tour: Machu Picchu for Civil Engineersp. 94
The Main Tourp. 94
Side Tripsp. 117
Referencesp. 124
Figure Creditsp. 127
Indexp. 129