Caissons are often used as the foundation of important structures. The sinking process of a caisson has a significant effect on its serviceability. In this study, laboratory experiments and numerical simulations were performed to study the macro- and meso-scale mechanical behaviors of caissons during sinking. Earth pressures near the toe of the caisson during sinking were measured. Particle movements and coordinate numbers were investigated to explain the distribution of earth pressure on the caisson from the meso-scale viewpoint. The region affected by the sinking process was fitted by a parabolic function. Soil arching and rotation of principal stress were found to be the important mechanisms affecting the mechanical behaviors of caissons during sinking. A numerical solution is proposed and is shown to offer a good approximation of the earth pressure on a caisson. The results of this paper are supposed to be useful for the design and construction of caissons in practice.
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