Ancient Inca Message System

The first member of each group was given a message that included a complicated fact about the Inca empire. 
Their job was to memorize the message and deliver it to the next member of their relay team.

OCS Students Recreate Ancient Inca Messenger Relay


As part of each unit of study in their Early World History course, seventh grade students of Onekama Middle School participate in a “Social Studies Lab” activity.


Similar to a science lab, these activities are intended to give students some hands-on practice with the information learned in class. The goal is to bring ancient world history to life in a memorable way.


In their final lab of the school year, as an extension to their study of Civilizations of the Americas, the students headed to the school’s walking track in order to recreate the messenger system of the ancient Incas.


In the 1400s and 1500s, the Incas sent messages using an elaborate relay system. A chasqui, or messenger, carried the memorized message by running to another chasqui along the Royal Road. The two messengers would run alongside each other until the first messenger was certain that the second has the message correct; then the first would stop running and it was up to the second chasqui to carry the message to the next station as quickly as possible.


The Onekama students were divided into relay teams and positioned along their own “Royal Road” – the school’s walking track. Each team was given a message that consisted of some important information about the Inca Empire, including farming practices, geographic location, trade, family life, and methods of conquest.


Each student chasqui delivered their message to a team member, and the two ran alongside each other until both were confident that the message was ready to be passed on to the next team member.


Once all teams completed the relay, the anchor chasqui for each team announced the “message” to the class. Some groups were more successful than others in retaining and communicating the original message, but all groups finished the activity with a clearer understanding of the methods and challenges used by the Incas to deliver information across a vast empire.


“I really like our Lab days,” commented Onekama student Ashley McGrady. “It is fun to learn while moving around and doing activities in a surprising way. I think it is my favorite part of social studies class.”

Onekama student Rhiannon Cordes passes a message to classmate Mirari Blumenshein as part of a social studies lab activity.
    Jaylin Ziehm and Ethan Walker are teammates in a relay 
    designed to imitate message delivery by ancient Incas.