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Deciphering the Mystery of Khipu - Ancient Incan Accounting System?

by Dave Fisher

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Signs of the Inka Khipu: Binary Coding in the Andean Knotted-String Records

Signs of the Inka Khipu: Binary Coding in the Andean Knotted-String Records

Researchers believe they have come closer to solving a centuries-old mystery - by deciphering knotted string used by the ancient Incas.

Experts say one bunch of knots appears to identify a city, marking the first intelligible word from the extinct South American civilisation.

The coloured, knotted pieces of string, known as khipu, are believed to have been used for accounting information.

The researchers say the finding could unlock the meaning of other khipu.

Find out More about Khipu

Suggested Reading

  • Signs of the Inka Khipu: Binary Coding in the Andean Knotted-String Records
    Gary Urton of the Khipu Database Project at Harvard University has written a comprehensive monograph on Khipu and Andean methods of record keeping. Paperback: 216 pages. ISBN: 9780292785403
  • Mathematics of the Incas: Code of the Quipu
    With over 125 photos and illustrations, this book takes a look at the mathematical concepts behind khipu, the cultural context in which they were used and even gives details on how to make your own. Paperback: 176 pages. ISBN: 9780486295541
  • The Social Life of Numbers: A Quechua Ontology of Numbers and Philosophy of Arithmetic
    Also by Gary Urton, this books examines the use of khipu to record both statistical data as well as information on social, familial, and political relationships and structures. Paperback: 285 pages. ISBN: 9780292785342
  • Narrative Threads
    In this book, twelve international scholars examine how the Inca used knotted threads to record and transmit information. Hardcover: 391 pages. ISBN: 9780292769038
  • The Cord Keepers
    In this book, anthropologist Frank Salomon provides an in-depth study of one Andean village where sets of khipu knots form part of the sacred patrimony to this day. Through observation of the rituals surrounding the khipu, studies of written records from past centuries, and analysis of the knotted strings, Salommon brings a new perspective to the use of these enigmatic cords in both ancient and modern-day Andean cultures. Paperback: 331 pages. ISBN: 9780822333906
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