Inca Empire for Kids, the Roadrunners Illustration

Inca Empire for Kids
Relay Roadrunners

The Inca Mailmen

Many young boys in the Inca Empire dreamed of one day becoming a mailman. Only the best were chosen. Potential mailmen had to work hard to achieve their goal. They had to attend a special school that taught them how to be mailmen. The mailmen in the Inca Empire had to be physical fit, good listeners, with great memories. They ran the roads, carrying messages.  

It was each runnerís job to run a mile or two down the road. As he approached the next relay station, the runner blew loudly on a conch shell to alert the next runner to get ready. The next runner would appear, running along side him. Without stopping, the first runner told the second runner the message. The second runner speeded ahead until he reached the next relay station. And so it went, from one point in the empire to another. The mail system was a system of relay runners.  

Messages had to reach the Sapa Inca accurately. If it was discovered that a message was not accurate, punishment was severe. Punishment did not only descend upon the person who delivered the message, punishment could track backwards to anyone who had a part in that message. It was important to be accurate. 

When messages were secret, runners carried the message in the form of a quipu - a series of knots and colored string. The quipu would be handed from runner to runner until it reached its destination. There, a special quipu reader would decipher the message.  

This relay system was so effective that runners could move messages at a rate of about 250 miles a day. Without runners, controlling the vast Inca Empire would have been next to impossible. With the runners, news and orders traveled rapidly and accurately from one end of the empire to the other.  

Runners carried no weapons. If they were attacked by a wild animal, they fought by hand, ran away, or died. It was a dangerous job. But runners did not have to work in the fields.

Inca Roads

The Sapa Inca

Incas for Kids