Thursday, January 04, 2007

Another unku inscription translated (that of a garment of a "high priest / wizard"

Hi folks,

A translation of the tocapu embroidered incription on another inca ceremonial garment (tb01.jpg), though I'm presently less confident of this one...

It seems to say:

High, initiated (in the path of wisdom) spiritual priest/wizard.

I'm also trying to organize a working glossary of deciphered Tocapu symbols. Some of the "logic" behind the decipherment process is given there. (Basically, William Burns Glynn noticed that the early colonial chronicler Guaman Puna d'Ayala seemed to use repetative symbols (quilcas) in drawing the tocapu belts present on his drawings of various Inca nobility. It turns out that elements of these symbols are really present in the actual tocapu of actually Inca-era garments). Anyway, this all is presented in tabular form in that working glossary spreadsheet that I've started to put together.

And other tocapu laden garments to take a crack at are given at: http://www.geocities.com/denniskriz/tocapu-project.html

Dennis
(moderator)

9 Comments:

Blogger C. Scott Ananian said...

Your interpretation of the tocapu is very interesting. We're starting a Khipu project at MIT ( http://theory.csail.mit.edu/classes/quipu/ ), and we've been playing with the hypothesis that khipu is encoded with a syllable-based system, which is roughly equivalent to your consonant-based decoding of tocapu. One of the problems here is that, given enough slack in the writing system, one could potentially decode a given string of symbols as *anything*. How confident are you that your tocapu translations are unique?

Jan 29, 2007, 2:22:00 PM  
Blogger dennisosm said...

Hi Scott!

In a word, the two translations that I posted are, _not_ unique.

However, an advantage in studying the tocapu-covered unkus (ceremonial garments) over khipus is that the tocapu covered ceremonial garments have a _context_ ... they're ceremonial.

This reduces the number of probable translations.

Note that the Semitic languages (Arabic and Hebrew) are generally written without vowels. However, they can be understood in light of a context.

The problem is that, if one is _starting from scratch_, there are so few samples of either khipu or tocapu covered materials.

The published proponent of the 10 consonant system is William Burns Glynn and his two books:

(1) Legado de los Amautas
(2) Decodificacion de los Quipus

are both available (in Spanish) through Libros Andinos (http://www.librosandinos.com)

Dennis
denniskriz@yahoo.com

Jan 30, 2007, 7:32:00 AM  
Blogger C. Scott Ananian said...

I'm just pointing out that a reasonable way to make your translations convincing is by enumerating the space of possible translations in some way, and showing that yours is the only reasonable one.

For example, if I had a cryptotext "WIQO", it is possible to "decode" that to any four letter word without repeated letters: for example, "four" or "word" (but not "that"). Thus any claimed decryption isn't likely to be convincing.

Finding a longish sequence with repeated elements might constrain the problem enough that you can make a convincing argument that only one reading is possible/plausible.

Another thing you might think about is how vowels might be encoded -- if you could interpolate vowels into your sequences of consonants (by symbol orientation, reflection, color, etc) you could constrain the space of possible words much more and thus yield a more unique decoding. There may be as few as three vowels in proto Quechua/Amarya, so the number of symbol variants necessary is not large.

It's true that there are languages which are written without vowels, but the ancient writing systems in North/South America seem to be syllabic. And again, there's just the pragmatic consideration that vowels (or word breaks, or *something*) constrain the problem enough that decodings become sufficiently unique/convincing.

Jan 30, 2007, 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger dennisosm said...

Hi Scott!

Thanks greatly for your comments once more.

Actually there is a method to W. Burns Glynn's madness:

He noted that in the pictures in Guaman Puna's colonial era manuscript, the Incas are often pictured _simplified_ tocapu-laden patterns on their unkus (poncho-like garments) See the web-reference that I put in the links section of this blog to a digitized version of Gauman Puna's manuscript.

Glynn, a former cryptographer, noted that there's a relationship between the "tocapu like" symbols on those pictures and _the captions_ (written in Latin script) that Puna wrote above the pictures.

In a sense, this could be a kind of "Rosetta stone" for the tocapu patterns.

Puna used simplified patterns, but the pattern elements (square, x, asterisk, box, dots in a row, etc) do appear in actual tocapu-laden garments from the Inca/early colonial era.

Also, interestingly, there are times when Puna uses a numerical shorthand (notably he uses the numbers 3, 4, and 8) in places where the corresponding quechua consonant sound would fit.

But, how would numbers correspond to consonant sounds? Here Glynn noted in his book LEGADO DE LOS AMAUTAS that the appropriate consonant sounds in this ten consonant system are present in 9 out of 10 of the Quechua names for the numbers between 1 and 10.

[Note separately that in his book DECODIFICACION DE QUIPUS, Glynn further noted that present in the Quechua names for common colors are also the appropriate consonant sounds in this 10 consonant system].

Ok, so Glynn, seemed to decipher the Mestizo colonial chronicler _Guaman Puna's_ drawings.

But did Puna know that this was _the_ (or _a_) system that the Incas used to communicate with? Or did Puna himself invent this system for his drawings?

Again, a lot _of the (symplified) elements_ that Puna uses are present in actual tocapu patterns present on actual Inca era ceremonial garments.

But clearly the actual tocapu patterns are more complex than Puna's, though _the elements_ of Puna's system are present in them.

Perhaps one could think of a tocapu pattern as structure similar to the "cartouche" structure of Egyptian heiroglyphics. Inside the ancient Egyptian "cartouche" would be the glyphic elements by which the word would be encoded.

The graphic elements of Glynn's 10 consonant system are presented in an article present on the Quechuanetwork.org website. I have placed a link to that article on this blogsite as well.

Take care and thanks very much again for your interest!

Dennis

Jan 30, 2007, 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger C. Scott Ananian said...

That's very interesting. I'll certainly try to track down a copy of Glynn's book to read (although my Spanish isn't the best).

I wonder if Puna might have understood the rudiments of the system, but not the whole thing? Perhaps the consonant decoding is correct, but there is also vowel information (to make a proper syllabary) or other logographic elements which Puna either didn't recognize or didn't draw?

It's true that hieroglyphics don't consistently encode vowel information, but then again a graphic system allows room for a lot more logography than khipu seems to. Tutankhamen was encoded in cartouche as i, mn, n == imn == imen, amon, or amun (the king of the Gods, so his name always appears first), followed by t, w, t, ankh (a logogram) == tutankh.

So, vowels may be "mostly absent" but they're not entirely absent. (The rest of Tut's cartouche is entirely logographic: "ruler", "heliopolis", "upper egypt", where "the heliopolis of upper egypt" was another name for Thebes.)

Jan 30, 2007, 8:45:00 PM  
Blogger dennisosm said...

Hi Scott!

Thanks much for your further comment and good luck in tracking down William Burns Glynn's books.

I found his book DECODIFICACION DE QUIPUS at the University of Chicago and both of his books at the Newberry Library (a private institution) in Chicago as well. (I'm from Chicago).

I would guess that between MIT, Boston College, UMass and Harvard, that you should find the books as well.

Other than that, I'm presently traveling to Prague. I'll be back in the United States on Feb 8th.

I'll try to set up the blog so that it does not require my intervention to post comments while I'm gone ... but if I'm unsuccessful ... and you don't see your further comments on the blog for a couple days ... that's why.

Take care and good luck! (Interesting stuff about the Egyptians as well!).

Dennis
(moderator)

Jan 31, 2007, 9:51:00 AM  
Blogger dennisosm said...

Hi Scott!

Thanks much for your further comment and good luck in tracking down William Burns Glynn's books.

I found his book DECODIFICACION DE QUIPUS at the University of Chicago and both of his books at the Newberry Library (a private institution) in Chicago as well. (I'm from Chicago).

I would guess that between MIT, Boston College, UMass and Harvard, that you should find the books as well.

Other than that, I'm presently traveling to Prague. I'll be back in the United States on Feb 8th.

I'll try to set up the blog so that it does not require my intervention to post comments while I'm gone ... but if I'm unsuccessful ... and you don't see your further comments on the blog for a couple days ... that's why.

Take care and good luck! (Interesting stuff about the Egyptians as well!).

Dennis
(moderator)

Jan 31, 2007, 9:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Dave Essery said...

Hi Dennis,
I picked up your blog just the other day. I think its a great idea having a forum on quipu and tocapu - particularily the latter as there is so little information on this as a potential system of communication.
I have a few questions for you on the subject.
The first and biggest 'hurdle' I would see in considering the tocapu as a phonetic communication system would be the large collection of unku/garments that have only one repeating tocupa or sign. I presume there are few words in Quechua that have only one letter/sound, and yet the vast majority of unku have only one repeating tocapu/sign.
Unless your system can account for the 'one symbol repeating' unku I don't know if it could be considered workable.

A second hurdle is that, as far as I am aware, none of the indigenous or spanish chroniclers mention tocapu on garments as a form of communication. One or two mention 'painted boards' without being specific but none mention unku/garments as carrying any meaning independent of the ceremonies they were used in. This is surprising if tocapu were infact a phonetic communication system. Several of the chroniclers went into considerable detail about the dress of the Inca and their known communication systems and several were sympathetic to the Inca almost to the point of overstressing their strengths and ignoring their weakness (eg de la vega). We know tocapu continued to be produced in the early colonial period so why is there no mention of their use as a communication system at all in the early literature?

Anyway before I go any further I would be interested to hear your opinions on the above points and welcome further discussion - as I said I am very impressed with what you have put together

cheers from New Zealand
Dave Essery

Feb 27, 2007, 4:57:00 PM  
Blogger dennisosm said...

Hi Dave!

Thanks for your comments!

I would have three responses to them.

First, there are actually a good number of tocapu laden unkus with multiple tocapus present on them. See simply those whose pictures I have posted on this site.

Second, even in the case of the those unkus with only one tacapu present on them ... that tocapu may be enough to identify the person wearing it (or his/her ceremonial role).

Finally, in the colonial-era chronicle of Guaman Puna, he pictures dozens of Inca persons dressed in tocapu-laden unkus. William Burns Glynn was able to decipher a link between the captions to these pictures and the symbols portrayed on unkus pictured. Thus _according to Glynn_, the picture which according to its caption was of the Inca "Manco Kupac" had tocapu symbols on his Unku saying exactly that "Manco Kupac."

Guaman Puna's version of the tocapu symbols appear to be simplified but the patterns appear in actual tocapu patterns that we see in Inca / Colonial era unkus that exist today in museums and private collections.

Cheers,

Dennis

Feb 27, 2007, 10:00:00 PM  

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