Saturday, January 2, 2016

Untangling an Accounting Tool and an Ancient Incan Mystery - The New York Times

Finally, a writing system harder than Chinese. The Incas and their descendants speak Quechua.  Although they built a major civilization they did not develop an alphabet nor hieroglyphics.  But they did keep accounts and perhaps more in  Khipus - knotted twine. - gwc
Untangling an Accounting Tool and an Ancient Incan Mystery - The New York Times
by William Neuman
Khipus are made of a series of cotton or wool strings hanging from a main cord. Each string may have several knots, with the type and location of the knot conveying meaning. The color of the strands used to make the string and the way the strands are twisted together may also be part of the khipus’ system of storing and relaying information.
Now the Incahuasi researchers hope that by studying the khipus and comparing them with others in a large database, they may find that the khipus discovered with the peanuts contain a color, knot or other signifier for “peanut.” The same goes for those found with chili peppers, beans and corn.

“We can look at how the chili pepper khipu differs from the peanut khipu and from the corn khipu in terms of their color and other characteristics and we can build up a kind of sign vocabulary of how they were signifying this or that thing in their world,” said Gary Urton, a leading expert on khipus who is studying the new trove with Alejandro Chu, the archaeologist who led the excavation.

“It’s not the great Rosetta Stone but it’s quite an important new body of data to work with,” he said, adding, “It’s tremendously exciting.”

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