There’s something of the detective about Kenneth Wright, P.E., D.WRE, Dist.M.ASCE.
He’s been investigating Inca archaeological sites for more than 20 years, conducting paleohydrological research in an effort to figure out what was in the minds of the Inca engineers. His books, Machu Picchu, Tipon, and Moray, have long been popular among ASCE members as Wright brings to life both the technical brilliance and aesthetic beauty in Inca civil engineering design.
And he’s back on the case again with a new book about the Inca water temple Incamisana.
He talked with ASCE News about the project and his love for Inca engineering.
ASCE News: How is Incamisana different from other Inca cities and sites?
Ken Wright: “It’s special, different. Incamisana is a small part of a larger royal estate, Ollantaytambo. The water supply for the valley was complicated with ancient canals. This is a small, specialized water temple to allow the Inca to pay tribute to water gods.”
ASCE News: What about that area and the Inca history do you love so much?
KW: “I just love Peru and its people. We’ve developed good relationships with archaeologists and universities in Peru.
“The Inca left so much evidence for people like me to study and examine and interpret. When you come across a 500-year-old canal that’s carefully carved, we can go in and measure the slope, measure the cross section and study the routing.
“It’s fun from that standpoint, figuring out just what’s in the minds of Inca engineers.”
ASCE News: Have you done reverse engineering (dying water to determine flows) at other sites?
KW: “While we have reverse engineered, using hardcore, on-the-ground facts left by the Inca and also present-day formulas, this was the first time we used dye to reverse engineer water flow.
“Underground factors at Incamisana made the dye a necessity. There are three conduits running north-south that feed the fountains – three underground conduits. In order to see where the water traveled, its speed and quantity, we needed the dye to track it.
“So we used a surface canal to color the water. The dyed water traveled about 150 feet to the south. We could then measure the time it took, estimate velocity, and determine which conduit delivered water to each fountain.”
ASCE News: What’s next for you?
KW: “There’s much more to do. We also have a lot of work going on in the Anasazi world of southwest Colorado. We have projects in Italy at Pompeii and the Roman aqueducts, and we have projects in southern France.
“We’re also working in Thailand, Cambodia, southern Iraq, and other exotic places.
“There’s so much to do and so little time [laughs] – that old problem.”
Learn more about Wright’s books: