Incan Quipu

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Brief Description

The Inca quipu remains largely a mystery to today's scholars, and while there are many plausible and likely hypotheses as to true functions this device served, a specific and definite answer has yet, and may never, be uncovered. But regardless of the different purposes that are thought to have been applied to the quipu by the Incas, it is wholly agreed that it was an extraordinarily intricate system in which to store information.

A typical quipu consisted of a number of pendent and often subsidiary pendent strings that were suspended from a main horizontal cord. Knots representing numbers were tied into the pendent strings and occasionally into the main cord.

The strings used in the creation of a quipu were made from cotton, and sometimes from alpaca or llama wool, and were dyed various colors to allow for categorization. It was the combination of these materials and processes together as a quipu that the Inca bureaucracy relied on to keep their detailed records and accounts of everything that occurred under their rule.

Who Could Read It

Quipucomayoc

Amautas

Encoding

Binary Coding

Mnemonic Knot-Records and Knot-Calendars