Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hiking Inca road informs engineer's research, teaching

Date:
April 9, 2014
Source:
Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)
Summary:
Can modern engineers learn best practices from ancient road builders? Modern road construction often relies on modifying the landscape by blasting through rock, which can result in landslides. Because the Inca relied on working within their environment, following the contours of the land and controlling the water flow around it, their road still stands today. The research has important implications for understanding the construction methods employed by the Inca.

Christine Fiori spent years hiking the Inca Road, often covering five to 10 miles each day at high altitudes with equipment packed on donkeys and llamas.
Credit: Image courtesy of Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)

Christine Fiori has built an international reputation as an expert on the Inca Road, but she isn't an archaeologist or historian.

She is the associate director of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech, where she has taught since 2007.

While modern construction is the focus of her everyday world and foundation of her professional experience, what truly sets Fiori apart from her peers is her research into ancient engineering.

Fiori, with support from the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C., led the first detailed engineering study on the Inca Road. She has spent four years studying sections of the 700-year-old passage with an international team of researchers and students.

The Inca Road runs from Quito, Ecuador, to Santiago, Chile, traversing rainforests, deserts, and mountains as it climbs from sea level to an altitude of 14,000 feet. While simple in appearance, the road is engineered to stand the test of time; it still serves as a critical connection between small villages throughout the region.

Fiori's work is building a new understanding of how ancient engineers worked with the environment to simply and effectively build lasting structures.

Modern road construction often relies on modifying the landscape by blasting through rock, which can result in landslides. Because the Inca relied on working within their environment, following the contours of the land and controlling the water flow around it, their road still stands today.

The research has important implications for understanding the construction methods employed by the Inca.

In November, Fiori discussed how civil engineers can apply ancient engineering concepts as a featured speaker at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian Symposium on Inca Engineering. She then immediately departed for Peru where she provided expert commentary for the Science Channel's show "Strip the City," which aired in March.

Fiori is also making an impact at an international level as a catalyst for formal research and publication on the Inca Road. When Fiori's research first began, there was very little published information available.

She is now encouraging researchers in South America toward further work and publication on Incan engineering and creating opportunities for college students to get involved in research on the topic. To aid in the preservation and recognition of the road, she is also working with the American Society of Civil Engineers to have the Inca Road named one of UNESCO's engineering heritage sites.

One of the key researchers involved with Fiori's Incan engineering research is Clifford J. Schexnayder, a professor emeritus from Arizona State University and Fiori's mentor, with whom she co-authored the textbook, "Construction Management Fundamentals."

Fiori and Schexnayder are currently designing an exhibit on the Inca Road for the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.

Fiori's knowledge of the road is hard won. It was earned over multiple years hiking the Inca Road, often covering five to 10 miles each day at high altitudes with equipment packed on donkeys and llamas, taking measurements, setting up satellite communications, and sleeping on the ground.

While she credits many of her achievements with "being in the right place at the right time," her knowledge of building techniques and her open mind to examine the engineering behind something a little out of the ordinary made her the perfect person to take on the challenge.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). "Hiking Inca road informs engineer's research, teaching." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140409134321.htm>.
Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). (2014, April 9). Hiking Inca road informs engineer's research, teaching. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140409134321.htm
Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). "Hiking Inca road informs engineer's research, teaching." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140409134321.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

AP (July 24, 2014) TSA administrator, John Pistole's took part in the Aspen Security Forum 2014, where he answered questions on lifting of the ban on flights into Israel's Tel Aviv airport and whether politics played a role in lifting the ban. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

AP (July 24, 2014) Mobile phone companies and communities across the country are going to new lengths to disguise those unsightly cellphone towers. From a church bell tower to a flagpole, even a pencil, some towers are trying to make a point. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

TheStreet (July 23, 2014) When The Deal's Amanda Levin exclusively reported that Gas Natural had been talking to potential suitors, the Ohio company responded with a flat denial, claiming its board had not talked to anyone about a possible sale. Lo and behold, Canadian utility Algonquin Power and Utilities not only had approached the company, but it did it three times. Its last offer was for $13 per share as Gas Natural's was trading at a 60-day moving average of about $12.50 per share. Now Algonquin, which has a 4.9% stake in Gas Natural, has taken its case to shareholders, calling on them to back its proposals or, possibly, a change in the target's board. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

AP (July 23, 2014) 'Ray' the robotic parking valet at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany lets travelers to avoid the hassle of finding a parking spot before heading to the check-in desk. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins