Couriers in the Inca Empire: Getting Your Message Across

This lesson will show how the Inca communicated across the vast stretches of their mountain realm, the largest empire of the pre-industrial world. It will explain how couriers carried messages along mountain-ridge roads, up and down stone steps, and over chasm-spanning footbridges. Couriers could pass a message from Quito to Cuzco in 10 days, about the same time as it takes today's modern postal service to deliver a letter between those two cities.

Guiding Questions

How did the Inca communicate over large distances in an empire without the wheel, the horse, or the written word?

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to describe the Inca as a people who built an empire in the mountains of South America

Locate the Inca Empire on a map

Appreciate the challenges of communicating over the large distances and difficult terrain of the Inca Empire

Describe the role of couriers in the Inca Empire

Explain the use of quipus, colored and knotted ropes carried by couriers that tallied numbers of warriors, amounts of gold, quantities of corn, etc.