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A Stability Analysis of the Retaining Walls of Machu Picchu

Fontanese, Melissa Marie (2010) A Stability Analysis of the Retaining Walls of Machu Picchu. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The retaining walls of Machu Picchu, constructed of dry stacked granite blocks during the 15th century, have remained standing for centuries in a challenging geologic and climatic setting with little to no maintenance. In order to construct such enduring infrastructure, Incan engineers understood the basic concepts that we use today to design modern retaining walls. A stability analysis, based on conservatively selected parameters, reveals that the Incan walls generally meet modern standards for sliding stability (assuming full-contact and thus maximum frictional forces between blocks) and the walls nearly meet modern standards for overturning stability. A fractal analysis of the walls, conducted by digitizing and analyzing photos of four retaining walls and one dwelling wall, shows that the roughness of the stones making up the walls is fractal. The analysis also shows that the size distributions of the stones in the walls are fractal over several ranges, or multi-fractal.The walls were simulated in the laboratory using a matrix of wooden dowels subjected to normal loading via a direct shear apparatus. Force chains formed in the matrix; as the size distribution of the dowels changed with the addition of multiple dowel sizes, the number of dowels not engaged by force chains decreased until all of the dowels were engaged in transmitting the load to neighboring dowels.The fractal distribution of stone sizes in the walls aids in the transmission of load between individual particles in the wall as demonstrated through the laboratory analysis of wooden dowels. By engaging each particle in sharing the loading, the full stability of the wall can be realized.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Fontanese, Melissa Mariemmf9@pitt.eduMMF9
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairVallejo, Luis Evallejo@civ.pitt.eduVALLEJO
Committee MemberIannacchione, Anthony Tati2@pitt.eduATI2
Committee MemberVandenbossche, Julie Mjmv7@pitt.eduJMV7
Date: 25 June 2010
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 30 March 2010
Approval Date: 25 June 2010
Submission Date: 30 March 2010
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Swanson School of Engineering > Civil and Environmental Engineering
Degree: MSCE - Master of Science in Civil Engineering
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: fractals; Machu Picchu
Other ID:, etd-03302010-231255
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:33
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:37


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