When we think of geotechnical engineering we envision highly trained scientists and engineers using precision instruments and heavy earth-moving machinery to help shape enormous structures and vast transcontinental highway systems.  How then, were Ancient Greeks able to construct the many roads and structures throughout their empire without the modern equipment we use today? And what tools did the Egyptians use to create the awesome pyramids, thousands of years before the ancient Greeks existed?  Although the science of geotechnical engineering is relatively new, it’s obvious that the ancients knew something about working with the elements of the Earth in order to create buildings, bridges, monuments and roads, some of which stand to this day.

Following are brief descriptions of a couple of iconic structures that have survived in part since antiquity.

The Acropolis of Athens Greece

An ancient citadel built on a rocky outcrop high above the city of Athens, the site’s most famous structure is the Parthenon whose construction was supervised by Pericles in the 5th Century B.C. According to Smithsonian.com, the Parthenon’s builders secured its marble blocks with iron clamps fitted in carefully carved grooves. To protect the structure from earthquakes they poured molten lead over the joints in order to provide cushioning.

Geotechnical Engineers

The Pyramids of Egypt
More than 100 of these ancient tombs continue to stand thousands of years after their construction, defying the elements of time while attracting millions of visitors from around the world. Yet to this day, scientists and archeologists have been unable to determine how the ancient Egyptians built theiconic structures without the use of modern machinery. According to Donald Redford, professor of Classics and ancient Mediterranean studies at Penn State University (as reported in a 2008 article in ScienceDaily.com) the first pyramid was built by King Djoser during Egypt’s Third Dynasty. Redford says that King Djoser’s architect designed a step by step structure by stacking rectangular buildings that were similar to those in which earlier Egyptian kings had been buried.  However, scientists have yet to discover how the architect and other Egyptian builders and engineers were able to fashion and move the enormously heavy stone building blocks that comprise the structure of the pyramids.

With due respect to the engineers of antiquity, if you are looking for geotechnical engineering consultants who can tackle today’s toughest challenges, visit Universal Engineering Sciences, Inc. (Universal).

Universal specializes in geotechnical engineering, environmental sciences, construction materials testing, and threshold inspection.  Universal delivers customized solutions for each of its clients whether they require timeliness, cost-saving recommendations, ingenuity or any other requirement.