I'm currently completing a corporate challenge where you count steps and head to different world destinations to find out interesting "facts".

Today we had a fact or fiction quiz at Machu Picchu, something along the lines of "Did ancient Incas use potatoes as a measure of time?". With the "correct" answer being that it was a true fact.

Here are some other links making the same claim, I'm not providing quotes because they are essentially the same: "Incas used the time it took to cook a potato as a measure of time".

Is there any truth to this claim?

I can't find any reliable sources and nothing on Snopes.

  • 2
    "Peru's Inca Indians were the first to cultivate potatoes around 200 B.C. The potatoes they grew ranged in size from a small nut to an apple," <-- That would make a big difference in a unit, then the question would be how big of a potato was the standard, was there a standard? – AthomSfere Jun 4 '13 at 2:17
  • 2
    @AthomSfere When I was young I read that 'imperial' measurements like "inch" and "foot" were based on the length of kings' appendages. IMO potatoes and kings both varied in size. – ChrisW Jun 4 '13 at 4:00
  • 1
    The Incas where star gazers as the Egyptians so it's more likely they used that and the sun to measure time (as many of the old civilizations). The potato doesn't seem so sophisticated in that context :) – epistemex Jun 4 '13 at 5:48
  • that just might be crazy enough to be potatoe. – user1721135 Jun 4 '13 at 20:20
  • 1
    @ChrisW: When you base a unit of measure on royalty, you base it on a specific person, not whomever happens to be ruling at the moment. Therefore your analogy falls apart; unless the claim is that the Incans used a specific potato to measure time. – Flimzy Jun 5 '13 at 7:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .