"Maximum Livable Angle"
So, I had a question that I feel needs a little input; what would be considered the 'maximum livable angle?' By that, I mean how steep can land be before it becomes hard to build a dwelling or other structure on top of it? The reason for the inquiry is because a friend of mine asked me to do a map that involves building a village on top of mini-buttes that were carved from the land grand canyon style. I've seen maps like that on here before, but I started thinking about how steep land would have to be before people say, 'Nope. Not doing it.' As with all things, there are exceptions, but what would you all consider the maximum angle, in reference to the horizon, as a base line?
90 degrees. If you really need the defense, you'll build into the side of cliffs (e.g. the Anasazi and other cliff dwellers). As long as there is sufficient access to water and land for agriculture, you can pretty much build anywhere. There are terraced hillsides with angles of up to 60 degrees in various places around the world. Much above that, though, and soil isn't really thick enough for terracing. There are many villages in Europe built up the side of hills to the top because the hill makes for a natural fortification in case of attack.
The problem with things like Monument Valley-style buttes and with tepui is they tend to have little or no good soil or water on top of them (well, tepui have water from rainfall and some soil, but the tops tend to be pretty much inaccessible and not terribly suited for agriculture). If the buttes are relatively small (a couple hundred feet or so), then there really shouldn't be too much problem with habitation because that's not too far to carry water or go to tend the crops. There would likely even be steps and ladders cut into the side for access. I wouldn't expect to see much in the way of pack animals or wagons, though, without serious roads winding around the thing or a good crane system.
Surprising answer, but, considering your five tutorial awards, I believe you :) The map is for a fantasy setting, but I like to be grounded reality at least a little. *I* want the buttes to be approximately 100ft if not a little more, but I haven't gotten much feedback from him yet, so... Thank you for the feedback.
I was reading a-lot of the native americans that built into the sides of things like the Anasazi had their crops on top of the mesas as it was fairly fertile land to grow crops on with fairly decent water/snow. http://www.nps.gov/meve/forteachers/..._puebloans.pdf
Originally Posted by waldronate
It depends on the size of the mesa; smaller mesas (what are generally called buttes) will tend to have less soil, which means less vegetation, which means less fertile soils. A true mesa can be many miles across, meaning that you may not even be able to tell it's a mesa when you're up top. Mesa Verde, for example, is a bit more than 10 miles across. A lot of cliff dwelling weren't on mesas, but just canyon walls (e.g. Montezuma Castle). The edges of the Colorado Plateau are littered with them.
Originally Posted by ranger
There are also some impressive dwellings in the same vein that aren't based on cliffs at all (e.g. Casa Grande and pretty much all of Central America). They were a little outside the scope of the discussion, though.