Preliminary Back-Analysis of the Height of Mud Brick Fortifications Based on Geoarchaeological Data at Tell El-Retaba Site in Egypt

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Abstract

The Tell el-Retaba archaeological site is located at Wadi Tumilat, a shallow valley running from the Nile Delta to the Bitter Lakes. In ancient times, a route connecting Egypt with Syria-Palestine ran across the site. In the 13th century BC, during the rule of Ramesses II, a fortress surrounded by “Wall 1” was erected and in times of Ramesses III in the 12th century BC, a larger fortress surrounded by “Wall 2” and “Wall 3” was constructed. Using the finite element method (FEM) and ZSoil 2D&3D software, the wall heights were modelled and their soil-structure interaction was analysed. Strength of the wall depended on size and strength of bricks and mortar, brickwork, wall shape and foundation. Ancient builders using mud bricks must have known from practical experience the essentials of a wall construction, in which the height to width ratio was at 1.75 to 1.85. Moreover, they must have related the engineering properties of the material with the height of the construction and its purpose. The width to height ratio must have been used and related by ancient Egyptians to the ground resistance. Modelling has shown that, at wall width of 5 m, the foundation would have lost its stability at wall height of 13–14 m and bricks from the lower part of the wall would be destroyed. According to the undertaken assumptions, in order to retain stability, the wall height must have been limited to about 8–9 m.

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Studia Quaternaria

The Journal of Institute of Geological Sciences and Committee for Quaternary Research of Polish Academy of Sciences

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