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Knot direction in a khipu/alphabetic text from the Central Andes

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Sabine Patricia Hyland, Gene Ware, Madison Clark

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Khipus are knotted-string devices that were used in the Inka Empire for communication and for recording information. We recently analyzed the names and associated khipu cords in a newly discovered hybrid khipu/alphabetic text from the Central Andes. Results indicate a significant relationship in the text between knot direction and a form of social organization known as moieties, in which S-knots correspond to the upper (Hanan) moiety and Z-knots correspond to the lower (Urin) moiety. This relationship suggests that knot direction was used to indicate moiety in Andean khipus and, as such, may represent the first decipherment of a structural element in khipus since the decoding of the number system in the 1920s.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-197
Number of pages9
JournalLatin American Antiquity: A Journal for the Society of American Archaeology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2014

    Research areas

  • Andean archaeology, Epigraphy, Andean anthropology

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ID: 145020489