An anthropologist is unraveling a writing system in villagers’ artifacts from the 1700s
Animal-hair cords dating to the late 1700s contain a writing system that might generate insights into how the Inca communicated, a new study suggests.
Researchers have long wondered whether some twisted and knotted cords from the Inca Empire, which ran from 1400 to 1532, represent a kind of writing about events and people. Many scholars suspect that these textile artifacts, known as khipus, mainly recorded decimal numbers in an accounting system. Yet Spanish colonial documents say that some Inca khipus contained messages that runners carried to various destinations.
Now a new twist in this knotty mystery comes from two late 18th century khipus stored in a wooden box at San Juan de Collata, a Peruvian village located high in the Andes Mountains. A total of 95 cord combinations of different colors, animal fibers and ply directions, identified among hundreds of hanging cords on these khipus, signify specific syllables, reports Sabine Hyland. Hyland, a social