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Chasqui playing a pututu (conch shell) on "Primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno".[1]

The chasquis (also chaskis) were the messengers of the Inca empire. Agile, highly trained and physically fit, they were in charge of carrying the quipus, messages and gifts, up to 240 km per day through the chasquis relay system.[2] Chasquis were not just messengers (those were young boys who were just used to pass along basic information);[2] the chasquis were trained to be able to read and translate the quipus to each other and higher authorities.[3] Not only were they used to transport oral messages, but they also helped the inspector general, the Sapa Inka's brother, keep track of the people in the empire.[4] Chasquis were chosen from the fittest young males and were known to be the fastest runners.[5]


Chasquis were dispatched along thousands of kilometres, taking advantage of the vast Inca system of purpose-built roads and rope bridges in the Andes of Peru and Ecuador. On the coast of what is now Peru their route ran from Nazca to Tumbes.[6] Chasqui routes also extended into further reaches of the empire into parts of what are now Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile.

Tambos, or relay stations, were used for the chasquis to stop at and transfer messages to the next chasqui.[6] There were different sizes and levels of tambos and each one was assigned a different use.[7] The use of the tambo depended on what route it was on and who was allowed to use it, but the majority of them were just to pass the messages along because there were other structures that the chasquis used for rest and shelter called chaskiwasis.[6] Chasquis would start at one tambo and run to the next tambo where a rested chasqui was waiting to carry the message to the next tambo.


Each chasqui carried two items, a quipu and a pututu.[2] A quipu was used to store and transport information through a system of knotted strings that represented different things based on the kind, color, number of strings, etc.[4] The chasquis were able and allowed to read, translate, and transfer the information on the quipus.[2] The quipu could not be read unless the chasqui was there with the oral message and translation because some of the information was told orally that went along with the quipu.[6] The pututu was a conch shell used as a trumpet,[6] used to signal to other chasquis that one runner was close, so that they could prepare to run.

Modern day[edit]

There are several paths and preserved tambos that were used by the chasquis that still stand today. There are trails that allow one to travel along these paths and to experience the distance and terrain that the chasquis traveled.[8] Most of the paths are places that were used by the Inca but there are other sections that are assumed to be Inca paths that have not been confirmed or denied.[4] Most of the paths contain Inca rope bridges, which were skillfully constructed by Inca people by using strands of vegetation that were woven together and reinforced by wood and stones.[2] They were frequently used by chasqui runners delivering messages throughout the Inca Empire. Many of these bridges are still intact and can be walked across without fear of them breaking because of how durable they are.[4] There are also many races run on these paths.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Guamán Poma de Ayala, Felipe (1980) [1616]. Primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno (in Spanish). México: Siglo XXI. p. 322. ISBN 968-23-0972-7.
  2. ^ a b c d e Quilter, Jeffrey (2002). Narrative Threads. University of Texas Press.
  3. ^ "Discover Peru – Inca Roads and Chasquis". Retrieved 2015-11-27.
  4. ^ a b c d D'Altroy, Terrence (2002). The Incas. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 1405116765.
  5. ^ "Inca Roads and Chasquis". Discover Peru. Retrieved 2020-04-19.
  6. ^ a b c d e Hyslop, John (1984). The Inka Road System. Academic.
  7. ^ Rostworowski de Diez Canseco, Maria (1999). History of the Inca Realm. Cambridge University Press.
  8. ^ "What It's Like to Travel the Inca Road Today". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2015-12-02.