Inka Universe

The city of Cusco is the principal one of all the cities and is the residence
of the nobles, and is so great and beautiful that it would be worthy of Spain.

—Pedro Sancho de la Hoz, secretary to Francisco Pizarro, 1534

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    Paratia District, Peru, 2014. Photo by Doug McMains, NMAI.


A Road for Administration

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    Select highlighted words to hear them spoken in Quechua.

    The Inka spoke the Quechua language, which is still spoken today in the Andes.


Qhapaq Ñan means "the Way of the Lord." The road was reserved for state business. The Inka bureaucracy used the Qhapaq Ñan to mobilize the labor force, transport raw materials and crops across the empire, and serve the state’s many other needs—including military campaigns to conquer territory and quell rebellions.


News traveled fast along the Qhapaq Ñan. Chaskis (official messengers) carried khipus (string devices for recording information), verbal messages, and small packages across the empire. They ran in a relay system, trading messages and goods at stations called chaskiwasis, which stood approximately 10 to 15 kilometers (5 to 7 miles) apart.


The Inka never developed a writing system. Instead, officials used khipus, devices made of colored strings knotted in various ways. Khipus were used to record census data, the movement of goods and people throughout the empire, and religious and military information. The officials who managed the khipus were known as khipucamayucs.