August 11, 2003 5:30 PM Subscribe
String and Knot, Theory of Inca Writing
An article today in the NY Times (you know the drill, I think it's metafi/metafi, no?) regarding a new theory to do with the decoding of the "cryptic knotted strings known as khipu".
If khipu is indeed the medium of a writing system, Dr. Gary Urton of Harvard says, this is entirely different from any of the known ancient scripts, beginning with the cuneiform of Mesopotamia more than 5,000 years ago. The khipu did not record information in graphic signs for words, but rather a kind of three-dimensional binary code similar to the language of today's computers.
Dr. Urton, an anthropologist and a MacArthur fellow, suggests that the Inca manipulated strings and knots to convey certain meanings. By an accumulation of binary choices, khipu makers encoded and stored information in a shared system of record keeping that could be read throughout the Inca domain.
More information about Urton's book, which is to be published this month, here
; more information about the Khipu themselves and further linkage here
(note: this link is to an angelfire page, popups and limited bandwidth are to be expected). From Cornell, detailed descriptions
of 200 Khipu, with photographs.
posted by jokeefe (11 comments total)
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