Topic: Indigenous peoples of the Americas

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Inca Road System

Indigenous peoples of the Americas Peru Argentina

The Inca road system (often spelled Inka road system and known as Qhapaq Ñan meaning "royal road" in Quechua) was the most extensive and advanced transportation system in pre-Columbian South America. It was at least 40,000 kilometres (25,000 mi) long. The construction of the roads required a large expenditure of time and effort.

The network was composed of formal roads carefully planned, engineered, built, marked and maintained; paved where necessary, with stairways to gain elevation, bridges and accessory constructions such as retaining walls, and water drainage system. It was based on two north-south roads: one along the coast and the second and most important inland and up the mountains, both with numerous branches. It can be directly compared with the road network built during the Roman Empire, although the Inka road system was built one thousand years later. The road system allowed for the transfer of information, goods, soldiers and persons, without the use of wheels, within the Tawantinsuyu or Inka Empire throughout a territory with an extension was almost 2,000,000 km2 (770,000 sq mi) and inhabited by about 12 million people.

The roads were bordered, at intervals, with buildings to allow the most effective usage: at short distance there were relay stations for chasquis, the running messengers; at a one-day walking interval tambos allowed support to the road users and the flocks of carrying llamas. Administrative centers with warehouses for re-distribution of goods were found along the roads. Towards the boundaries of the Inka Empire and in new conquered areas pukaras (fortresses) were found.

Part of the road network was built by cultures that precede the Inka Empire, notably the Wari culture in the northern central Peru and the Tiwanaku culture in Bolivia. Different organizations such as UNESCO and IUCN have been working to protect the network in collaboration with the governments and communities of the six countries (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina) through which the Great Inka Road passes.

In modern times the roads see heavy use from tourism, such as the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, well known by trekkers, connecting Ollantaytambo with Machu Picchu.

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Quipu

Indigenous peoples of the Americas Peru

Quipu (also spelled khipu) are recording devices fashioned from strings historically used by a number of cultures in the region of Andean South America. Knotted strings were used by many other cultures such as the ancient Chinese and native Hawaiians, but such practices should not be confused with the quipu, which refers only to the Andean device.

A quipu usually consisted of cotton or camelid fiber strings. The Inca people used them for collecting data and keeping records, monitoring tax obligations, properly collecting census records, calendrical information, and for military organization. The cords stored numeric and other values encoded as knots, often in a base ten positional system. A quipu could have only a few or thousands of cords. The configuration of the quipus has been "compared to string mops." Archaeological evidence has also shown the use of finely carved wood as a supplemental, and perhaps more sturdy, base to which the color-coded cords would be attached. A relatively small number have survived.

Objects that can be identified unambiguously as quipus first appear in the archaeological record in the first millennium AD. They subsequently played a key part in the administration of the Kingdom of Cusco and later Tawantinsuyu, the empire controlled by the Inca ethnic group, flourishing across the Andes from c. 1100 to 1532 AD. As the region was subsumed under the invading Spanish Empire, the quipu faded from use, to be replaced by European writing and numeral systems. However, in several villages, quipu continued to be important items for the local community, albeit for ritual rather than practical use. It is unclear as to where and how many intact quipus still exist, as many have been stored away in mausoleums.

Quipu is the Spanish spelling and the most common spelling in English. Khipu (pronounced [ˈkʰɪpʊ], plural: khipukuna) is the word for "knot" in Cusco Quechua. In most Quechua varieties, the term is kipu.

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  • "Quipu" | 2013-08-18 | 47 Upvotes 24 Comments