Monday, September 17, 2007

READING COLOR (as CATAGORY) example by Alejo Rojas

Hi folks,

Even the chronicler Garsilaso de la Vega noted that the Incas used COLOR TO DENOTE CATAGORY when recording (statistical) information on khipus.

An example of this practice is given by Dr. Alejo Rojas of the Universidad Nacional Federico Villareal, Peru (thanks Dr. Rojas!):



Blogger Dave Essery said...

Hi Dennis
Dave Essery here. Thought I'd drop you a line as I occassionally check out your site to see what is going on in the world of khipu decipherment!
Is the work still progressing?

I'm a bit of an Inca fan, and I've put together a site regarding some of the aspects of their culture that I feel haven't received alot of attention or coverage, or where I feel researchers have gone up the wrong pathway. You're welcome to check it out at
Our worlds converge slightly when I discuss tocapus in my post on the Incan history boards. I think we probably disagree on the function of tocapu - but thats part of the fun of these projects isn't it - the debates involved.

I've got to get off my arse and add a few more posts, I've been working on one regarding Incan architecture for some time now in draft form.

Anyways, I was thinking about your work. I always thought it would be useful to put together a proper 'reader' regarding the khipu - ie somewhere where every colonial mention regarding the khipu is written down (without being edited or discussed). I did this when I researched the ushnu and it made sort out my ideas much easier, I also thought it would be a useful tool for any future researchers.
It seems to me that whilst khipu have fascinated alot of people, there is no volume that I know of that presents all the early spanish descriptions of quipu. Even Quilter and Urtons volume doesn't cover it all, and many of the quotes they use have been edited.
For example the following quote of Juan de Pancorvo regarding an exchange between Manco and Chalcuchima 'He began to deny it, but Manco Inca said to him: 'Here are three messengers with the quipus you sent. Do you still deny it? Ask your messengers.'[From Hemmings Conquest of the Inca]. What interests me about this comment (and I have never seen it in any other book on the Incas or khipu) is that Manco tells him to ask the messengers, rather than look at the khipu, as though the messengers would know more.
Now there are obviously numerous ways to interpret this comment by itself, but it nevertheless interesting, and there are many more I have come across reading sources to research things like the ushnu that I was surprised hadn't been used by the Aschers, or Urton and Quilter et al.
I have alot of respect for the mathematical approach you are taking to crack the quipu, but it might be interesting (and eminently easier in some regards) for you to assemble the first ever (online) database of every single early spanish (and native) account of the khipu! What a resource that would be! I could help you out with some I have come across (of great interest I think) in my research, but I would prefer not to drive it as, I think there are people, like yourself, better qualified than I to put it together.

Anyway let me know what you think, I'd be interested to hear from you anyway regarding your interest in the Inca as theres not too many people in New Zealand to talk to about them! You can email me on


Dave (ps if you publish this on your blog can you remove my email address pls - it would be great to hear from via email as well as through the site as well for more informal discussions - that way I don't have to check my spelling before I send things!)

Jan 28, 2008, 1:48:00 AM  
Blogger dennisosm said...

Hi Dave!

Thanks much for your suggestions. An online site cataloging every Colonial mention of khipus would be most useful.

However, this would best be done by a University, be it in the US (Harvard-MIT) or Peru.

Alejo Rojas from a university in Peru, who has contributed to this blog before may be a very good person to contact in regards to this matter.

Anyway, thanks much for your suggestions!

-- Dennis

Feb 2, 2008, 1:51:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home