Narrative threads : accounting and recounting in Andean Khipu


Narrative threads : accounting and recounting in Andean Khipu

edited by Jeffrey Quilter and Gary Urton

(Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long series in Latin American and Latino art and culture)

University of Texas Press, 2002

  • : pbk

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Includes bibliographical references and index



The Inka Empire stretched over much of the length and breadth of the South American Andes, encompassed elaborately planned cities linked by a complex network of roads and messengers, and created astonishing works of architecture and artistry and a compelling mythology - all without the aid of a graphic writing system. Instead, the Inka's records consisted of devices made of knotted and dyed strings - called khipu - on which they recorded information pertaining to the organisation and history of their empire. Despite more than a century of research on these remarkable devices, the khipu remain largely un-deciphered. In this benchmark book, thirteen international scholars tackle the most vexed question in khipu studies: how did the Inkas record and transmit narrative records by means of knotted strings? The authors approach the problem from a variety of angles. Several essays mine Spanish colonial sources for details about the kinds of narrative encoded in the khipu. Others look at the uses to which khipu were put before and after the Conquest, as well as their current use in some contemporary Andean communities. Still others analyze the formal characteristics of khipu and seek to explain how they encode various kinds of numerical and narrative data.


Preface - Jeffrey QuilterPart One. Background for the Study of Khipu and Quechua Narratives1. An Overview of Spanish Colonial Commentary on Andean Knotted-String Records - Gary Urton2. Spinning a Yarn: Landscape, Memory, and Discourse Structure in Quechua Narratives - Rosaleen HowardPart Two. Structure and Information in the Khipu3. A Khipu Information String Theory - William J. Conklin4. Reading Khipu: Labels, Structure, and Format - Marcia Ascher5. Inka Writing - Robert AscherPart Three. Interpreting Chroniclers' Accounts of Khipu6. String Registries: Native Accounting and Memory According to the Colonial Sources - Carlos Sempat Assadourian7. Woven Words: The Royal Khipu of Blas Valera - Sabine P. Hyland8. Recording Signs in Narrative-Accounting Khipu - Gary Urton9. Yncap Cimin Quipococ's Knots - Jeffrey QuilterPart Four. Colonial Uses and Transformations of the Khipu10. "Sin fraude ni mentira": Variable Chinu Readings during a Sixteenth-Century Tribute-Restitution Trial - Tristan Platt11. Perez Bocanegra's Ritual formulario: Knots and Confession - Regina HarrisonPart Five. Contemporary Khipu Traditions12. Patrimonial Khipu in a Modern Peruvian Village: An Introduction to the Khipukamayuq of Tupicocha, Huarochiri - Frank Salomon13. The Continuing Khipu Traditions: Principles and Practices - Carol Mackey

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