Monday, January 01, 2007

Series of Pictures of Inca-Era Tocapu laden Garments posted


I added a series of pictures of Inca-era "tocapu" laden ceremonial garments to the blog.

Tocapu are often suggested as another pre-colombian indigenous means of encoding information (writing) attested to by such colonial era Peruvian chroniclers as Guaman Puna d'Ayala.

A person who has devoted considerable energy seeking to decode the Tocapu symbols (as well as khipus) has been William Burns Glynn.

Anyway the series of pictures of tocapu laden garments can be found at:



Anonymous Dave Essery said...

Hiya Dennis
thanks for the quick reply. I suspect we may have been talking at cross-purposes alittle, so I would be interested to hear your views on the below.

I guess what I was trying to say in my first point was how does the phonetic system work when the garment has only one or two repeated tocapu? In your attachment of photos of unku with tocapu you show several like this (the key pattern and checkboard pattern etc).

Based on your (or Burns) system, one tocapu symbol equals one consonant (+ a vowel). So if we have a texile with one repeating symbol we have, in your system, a two letter word, repeated again and again. My question would be - how many useful nouns in Quechua are that short, that might be meaningful enough to be boldly and painstakingly crafted onto a garment? This isn't impossible, but it seems really unlikely to me. Can you give me some examples of 2 letter words in quechua that might fit the bill?

I note that below these illustrations of the simplified tocapu garments you had said that the key pattern might be associated with administration and the checkerboard with the victory. I am familiar with these ideas (and they seem good ones to me) but does this mean that you believe that some tocapu are ideograms and some are phonetic, as this suggests? This might mean that you and I share some common ground!!! :-)

I personally don't believe the tocapu are phonetically based for several reasons.
1) the first is the point made above, that many tocapu (on garments and some queros or aquilla) are just one sign, often repeated. Thats like me repeating mmmmmmm - it means nothing. The garments with more tocapu are obviously easier as you have more sounds to play with, but if you can't explain the single tocapu examples (which are so common) then I don't think you claim that a phonetic system is the only way to read tocapu.

2) I have not read Burns (though I have seen his book in Peru). But if I am correct from what you have written Burns uses Poma to isolate 10 symbols to which he assigns consonants (often several different ones to the same symbol, confusing system!). This might be ok for Pomas idealised drawings (he obviously hadn't seen the Inca kings he was drawing), but in the real pre-conquest Inca world there were many many more tocapu than just 10.
The German Thomas Barthel estimated there were about 300 tocapu on texiles and another 70 of queros, he then lowered these to around 23 basic types. How do you explain away the difference in the number of Burns tocapu (10) versus the actual corpus of material that exists? I think you have already noticed this is a problem as you are limited trying to find textiles with the 10 limited number of symbols on them to translate.

I notice Burns list does not even include the key symbol which is one of the most common found on inca textiles and quero. This is because Poma does not use it, but just because Poma does not use, does not mean it doesn't exist! How do you explain this?

Looking forward to more discussion! Again I really appreciate your time setting this site up.

Dave (please don't hesitate to go into detail, I think I have a reasonable background in Andean studies, and will query you if you go over my head - thanks)

Feb 28, 2007, 3:15:00 AM  

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