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The formation of desiccation cracks in soils is often interpreted in terms of tensile strength. However, this mechanistic model disregards the cohesionless, effectivestress-dependent frictional behaviour of fine-grained soils. An alternative theory is explored using analyses, numerical simulations based on an effective-stress formulation, and experiments monitored using high-resolution timelapsed photography. Results show that desiccation cracks in fine-grained sediments initiate as thedoi:10.1680/geot.8.p.012 fatcat:cjmifvakibamxlydv657j5eaju