September 02, 2010

Inca roads better than Roman roads

Construction Methods of the Ancient Inca Offer Sustainable Lessons

By Tudor Van HamptonCivil engineers and other researchers working under a $90,000 National Science Foundation grant are studying the Great Inca Road of South America for clues to help modern society build roads, bridges and other infrastructure that last longer and have a less harmful impact on the environment.

“Where modern engineers really try to tame the environment—cut through rock, move it out of the way—the Inca tried to work with the natural terrain,” says Christine Fiori, who teaches at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va., and is the research team’s lead investigator. “It might take longer, but it lasts.”
And:“In most places, it was paved for water,” says Schexnayder. “When the Conquistadors came, they said that the road was better than the Roman roads in Spain.” Incas also built other stone structures near or integrated into the road—culverts, ditches, sidewalls—to accommodate water flows and support side slopes. Hydraulic pressure, as with today’s solid-concrete retaining walls and levees, was likely not a problem due to the permeability of these stones. Today, some asphalt and concrete pavements now are being designed with permeability in mind.And:Amazingly, the Incas also standardized much of the road’s design and construction—using local labor and materials—without a written language. Though the Andean civilization employed a system of accounting, called Quipu, using knots tied in rope, much of its knowledge is thought to have been passed down orally. “Oral training and memorization was the methodology in military training,” explains Jose Barreiro, a Latin America expert at the Smithsonian. “Education in engineering technique likely followed the same method.”Comment:  I reported more on the Inca's complex engineering in Ghosts of Machu Picchu. The takeaway from these articles is that the Inca were engineers just like the Romans. That alone should crush the idea of Indians as uncivilized savages.

For more on the subject, see Review of American Indian Contributions and 100 Amazing Indian Discoveries.

Below:  "The condition of the Great Inca Road across Peru is imperiled by lack of maintenance and development. In this section near the town of Castillo, a new paved road cuts through the ancient thoroughfare." (Photo: C.J. Schexnayder)


dmarks said...

Great engineering, yes, but it led Shirley MacLaine (a left-wing racist probably involved with other new-age trespasses) to claim that space aliens must have built all that. Ancient Astronauts argument that Natives were too stupid to build things.

Burt said...

I agree dmarks about the comment of "space aliens", but you should not let your political leanings keep you or blind you from knowing that stupidity has no political agenda and that the "alien" theories go way back through American history in this country as well from American scientist regarding the mounds in MesoAmerica. What difference does it make to categorize people on their politics when it comes to the ridiculous?

dmarks said...

Burt: Good point.

The mention of a racist liberal was not related to this discussion item, but was connected to other citations of "racist conservatives" on this blog, but never any mention of racist liberals even when they come up for discussion.