Incan Binary!
June 23, 2003 6:40 AM   Subscribe

The Incas had binary! Archaeologists have long known that khipu strings were used by the incas to store arithmetic records. Now, it's believed that they used a 7-bit binary code to store all kinds of "written" information. Well? Who's going to be the first to translate Harry Potter onto a khipu string?
posted by unreason (8 comments total)
Who would have guessed it ? Thanks. :)
posted by plep at 7:05 AM on June 23, 2003

Who would have guessed it ? Thanks. :)
posted by plep at 7:05 AM on June 23, 2003

There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those with a sex-life and those who understand binary.
posted by signal at 7:28 AM on June 23, 2003

That's perfect signal. I have to email that out to some friends (footnoting you of course)
posted by pjgulliver at 7:40 AM on June 23, 2003

The incas may have had binary, as this is just a theory from somone hoping to find the equivalent of the Rosetta stone (which came in 3 languages, BTW). Good luck with repeating the incredible odds of that one. And good luck with the interpretation too. Expect more questions than answers.
posted by magullo at 7:42 AM on June 23, 2003

While it's by no means definitive, this is still a fascinating conjecture. And I just cant let this go...

Unfortunately, in this as in many other encounters, the Spanish burnt the khipu and punished the native for having it, a typical response that did not engender an understanding of how the Inca used their khipu.

Well, no, I suppose it didn't.
posted by soyjoy at 8:29 AM on June 23, 2003

soyjoy, once you get over that one, you still have to face another reality of life: the huaqueros. These modern day tomb robbers might very well be destroying their own glorious(?) past - as well as anything that they find which is not made out of shiny metal.
posted by magullo at 9:17 AM on June 23, 2003

Here's a good overview on how the khipus were used to record information. Apparently, the base 10 positional system was discovered by Leland L. Locke. Urton's conjecture strikes me as an interesting and quite likely corrollary to this.
posted by ed at 10:07 AM on June 23, 2003

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