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The preparation of my floor loom for action and my questions about different methods of human communication have brought me back to investigating khipu (quipu), an Inkan system of knotted cords that have yet to be fully deciphered.

I downloaded a bunch of articles on khipu yesterday and read through them this morning. The articles led to numerous questions. Admittedly, these are the questions of a novice, but asking questions is a good way to seek answers, so here goes.

1) 24 colors have been found within the existing khipu in the world. What are the colors? What sources were used to produce them? Where were the sources found?

2) Could something about the color have indicated a particular place or object? What about the combination of 2 or more colors?

3) Did men and/or women make khipu?

4) Was a loom or frame or some other device used to make them, or were they completely handmade?

5) How were khipu traditionally stored? (I look at one and think they’d be a horrible mess to untangle.)

6) When khipu are displayed, they are shown arranged in a circle or stretched horizontally. How did the khipukamayuq (knot readers) arrange them for reading? Did they read from left to right or right to left? Was the main string placed at the top or bottom? Were they read in a circular manner, with the arrangement signifying something like place?

7) Is some element of the khipu related to compass direction?

8 ) Are there “signatures” on any of the khipu? Some sort of element that identifies an individual khipukamayuq?

9) Many of the existing khipu appear to have been used for accounting purposes. Accounting can be fudged so that a company’s financial statements appear to be more favorable than they actually are. Could the khipukamayuq have fudged their khipu for personal gain?

10) Were khipu ever worn by people? Or were they like rosaries?

11) Musical notation indicates sounds and rhythm. Could khipu represent these things?

12) If I wanted to create a language out of string, how would I go about it?

I’ve found more online sources that have answered a few of my questions. Here are a couple of longer explanatory articles:

Variations in the Expression of Inka Power: Information Control in th ePalace of Puruchuco: An Accounting Hierarchy in a Khipu Archive from Coastal Peru by Gary Urton & Carrie J. Brezine

Khipu Accounting in Ancient Peru by Gary Urton & Carrie J. Brezine

The resource that’s going to take the most examination is the Khipu Database Project based out of Harvard and led by Urton and Brezine, authors of the articles mentioned above. The site includes pictures of known khipu and an analysis of the structures of many khipu in the hopes that patterns can be found so this knot language can be interpreted.

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