Sunday, September 10, 2006

UR016 - A good Khipu to Investigate for Narrative Information??

So then, what would be a good Khipu to investigate in a quest to find narrative rather than simply accounting information present in its chords?

As noted in one of the introductory posts below, Marcia Ascher, in her contribution published in Narrative Threads suggested that even khipus with nothing but numerical information, could produce narrative so long as we understood the database structure of the khipu being investigated. She noted that the general outlines of our own lives could be told using solely numerical labels: the date, our date of birth, our social security numbers, our zip codes (now up to 9 digits placing us within a block or two of our actual residences and places of work), our credit card purchases, our bank account numbers and so forth.

If we knew the locations and sizes of the fields on any database (including a khipu) as well as what the fields stood for, we could read it.

Indeed, characteristic of most extant (known) khipus is a fairly rigid formatting expressed by clearly observable pendant groupings (or pendant groups) along the primary chord of the khipu.

One would expect that such rigidly formatted khipus would, in fact, be data bases described by M. Ascher. The only question would be, what would be contents of such databases or accounts.

But what if one was looking for a khipu that was not simply an accounts page or data base but a khipu that contained some literary information (a story, an imperial decree, etc)? What would such a literary khipu look like?

I would suggest that a literary khipu would contain fairly long sections that would not be rigidly formatted.

I suggest that a khipu of this type could be UR016 from the Harvard DataBase.

My suggestion is based on the following observation: The data from Khipu UR016 indicates that after the presence of an initial pair of fairly small pendant groups of 11 and 3 pendants each, the pendant groups which follow on the khipu are of a fairly large size 101, 30 and 75 pendants each.

Many if not most khipus have a pendant group organization which is much tighter than this.

Thus inside those larger pendant groups of 101, 30 and 75 pendants each, could be some narrative rather than strictly numerical information.

Thus those larger pendant groups would be good places to apply W. Burns' 10 consonant system if in the knots and colors of the pendants of these larger pendant groups could be some encoded text.

To do this, one would make use of the Burns 10 Element Quechua Consonant Representation Table to convert the pendants' knot values and colors into consonant strings and then check with the Hunan-Rumasimi (Quechua) - English - Spanish Dictionary to see what words and their meanings these knot values and colors could correspond to.

Perhaps a discernible / meaningful text will come out. Perhaps the system will require some tweaking, particularly with understanding how the color information fits in. Does the color with the Ascher-Ascher color code "LB" (which is the chord color of most of Khipu-UR016's pendant strings) mean "blank" (that is, nothing)?

[It is to be noted here that Ascher-Ascher cataloged the colors of khipu chords according to a precisely scientifically defined scale, and according to what an Andean inhabitant of the 1500s would call it. There are reasons for this. Colors change over time (though aging of both fibers and dyes can be similulated). And there is a variety of dialects that spans the Andes. Yet, the names for colors, should be relatively the same as one goes from one dialect to another or vary in some consistent fashion from a norm as one compares one dialect to another.

In anycase, if the color issue becomes a tough one, it may call researchers to tabulate what are the regional variations in what colors are called in the Andes and from that research propose a good guess of the variation that would have probably existed at the times when Khipus were used.

The incorporation of color meanings into "text" present in the later pendant groups of khipu-UR016 may be complicating but need not be insurmountable.]

Ok, finally, how would one convert the knot values and color information in Burns' consonant representations?

Column H of the "PendantDetail" data table for each Khipu stored on the Harvard Data Base in this case that of UR016, gives the Ascher-Ascher color label for each pendant string. That color label needs to be converted (via the Ascher-Ascher Color Label Table) into the color definition that it stands for, and then this needs to be converted (via the Burns Consonant Representation Table) into a Consonant form.

Similarly, Column I of the same "PendantDetail" data table gives the numerical value of the knots present on each pendant string. Again these knot values can be converted into a short string of consonants, using the Burns Consonant Representation Table.

The strings of consonants that these operations produce can be searched for on the modified Hunan Runasimi (Quechua)-English-Spanish dictionary, in which columns have been added to include Burns' Quechua consonant string renderings of the Quechua words listed in the dictionary.

The Quechua words produced for each pendant(and their English / Spanish meanings) can be checked to see if taken together with the words derived for the pendants nearby, they produce an intelligible text.

Will it work? I don't know. However, I've provided here a method to check, if at least the approach proposed by William Burns to decipher the content of khipus can work.

I'll be working on this as well. But I would appreciate your own suggestions and observations too!

Dennis (moderator)

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