The Quipu of the Incas: its place in the story of communications

The Quipu of the Incas: its place in the story of communications

 

The study of postal history has, through time, been defined in a number of different ways. Most of us consider postal history to be the study of how a paper with writing on it was carried in some sort of organized fashion from place to place. But more broadly, and for the purpose of this short article, postal history could be defined as the study of moving information on an organized basis from one place to another. This definition has particular meaning when one considers the situation in which the prevailing language had no written form. That is precisely the case with the Inca Empire in South America. The Inca Empire (circa 1400 AD to 1532 AD) stretched from Chile and Argentina on the south, through Bolivia and Peru, to Ecuador on the north. The topography was desert, the high Andes mountains, plateaus and jungles. The empire was held together by two principal means. The first was a highly developed, often paved road system, which even today is followed in part by the Pan American highway. The second were “Chasquis,” Indian runners who carried messages from one Tambo (or way-station) to another, over these roads. In this manner adequate communication was assured, but to this had to be added a method to preserve and transmit information. Given the length and breadth of the Empire, the Inca hierarchy needed a significant and continuing flow of information and data to exercise economic and political control over greatly diverse inhabitants. That device was the quipu.[...]

 

The Quipu of the Incas: its place in the story of communications (Leo J. Harris) (PDF) (6 páginas)


Leo J. Harris

Leo J. Harris

Académico Correspondiente