Human failings

Surprisingly, inadequate footings do not figure large in a listing of failures. Human intervention not in keeping with the original design affects the long-term stability of a structure and can initiate a process of decline. Fortunately the response of most antique structures is usually slow as they seek to readjust, and there will be an ongoing process of load-sharing to other members or sections of masonry. The altered behavioural pattern can then be identified by a subtle set of clues in cracks and earlier repairs. New introduced elements can also force a series of readjustments by the main structure, beyond the capacity of the original structure to cope. The introduction of extensive elements of reinforced concrete needs to be well thought out in advance, as they have very different responses and flexural qualities to traditional materials.

Mistreatment is possibly the greatest factor in weakening of structures and ruins, leading to degradation. Once a ruined building is seen as a material source, expediency and economic greed overcome any compunction or restraint. This has been the consistent story of history generally. From a structural standpoint, the most attractive spoils are also those providing key elements of support, such as quoins from corners or buttresses, arch and voussoir stones, roofing, etc. This makes it all the more important for governments to take the necessary steps to protect sites from plundering.

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