Writing with twisted cords : the inscriptive capacity of Andean khipu texts
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Two newly discovered khipu (Andean twisted cord) epistles are presented as evidence that khipus could constitute an intelligible writing system, accessible to decipherment. Recent scholars have asserted that khipus were merely memory aides recording only numbers, despite Spanish witnesses who claimed that Inka era (1400 - 1532 CE) khipus encoded narratives and were sent as letters. In 2015, the author examined two khipus preserved by village authorities in Peru. Villagers state that these sacred khipus are narrative epistles about warfare. Analysis reveals that the khipus contain 95 different symbols, a quantity within the range of logosyllabic writing, and notably more symbols than in regional accounting khipus. A shared, mutually comprehensive communication system of such complexity presupposes a writing system, possibly logosyllabic. At the end of each khipu epistle, cord sequences of distinct colours, animal fibres and ply direction appear to represent lineage ("ayllu") names.
Hyland , S P 2017 , ' Writing with twisted cords : the inscriptive capacity of Andean khipu texts ' Current Anthropology , vol 58 , no. 3 . DOI: 10.1086/691682
© 2017 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. This work has been made available online with permission from the publisher. This is the author created accepted version manuscript following peer review and as such may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1086/691682
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