Tuesday, May 8
Suspension bridges in the Andes
New York Times: How the Inca Leapt Canyons The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has students do research on ancient technologies:
In the case of the Peruvian bridges, the builders relied on a technology well suited to the problem and their resources. The Spanish themselves demonstrated how appropriate the Peruvian technique was.
Dr. Ochsendorf, a specialist in early architecture and engineering, said the colonial government tried many times to erect European arch bridges across the canyons, and each attempt ended in fiasco until iron and steel were applied to bridge building. The Peruvians, knowing nothing of the arch or iron metallurgy, instead relied on what they knew best, fibers from cotton, grasses and saplings, and llama and alpaca wool.
Also see the video (41 minutes) of John A.Ochsendorf's presentation, Engineering in the Andes Mountains, at the Library of Congress in 2005.