Thursday, July 26, 2007

Added a COLOR DESCRIPTOR WORD OCCURANCE Table for the Quipus of Ascher-Ascher Database

Hi folks,

Today, I uploaded a table that records the presence (1) or absence (0) of the color descriptor words used by the Aschers to describe the colors of the cords in recorded in their database.

The presence (1) or absence (0) of each of these color descriptor words is recorded for every cord recorded in the AA database and the the frequency of their occurance is then calculated for each khipu in the database.

The point of this exercise has been to help in eventual "color shifting" of data of individual khipus and aggregating similar color descriptions into a more unified set, in order to allow for a more standardized analysis of the color information present across the whole database.

The new table can be downloaded for your use / comment and analysis at:

Again, comments are welcome :-)


Note that I constructed the table at hand by (1) simply using the CUT, PASTE and FILTER functions of MICROSOFT EXCEL to produce the necessary CSV (Comma separated value) data tables that I used to plug into 3 very simple computer programs written in QBASIC. The programs (1) gave every cord in the database a number (numerical label), (2) assigned a value of 1 if a particular color descriptor word was present (and 0 if it was absent) for each cord, and (3) simply added up the number of times a color descriptor word was used to help describe the color of the cords present in each khipu.

The point here is that between the functions possible with MICROSOFT EXCEL and some basic computer programming, a lot can be accomplished! :-)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Some Cord Color Use Observations based on Surveying the Ascher-Ascher Database


I uploaded a systematic though non-exhaustive survey of the occurrance of "color descriptor" words used by the Aschers to describe the colors of the cords present in the khipus catalogued in their database.

This table can be accessed at:

The data used in the analysis comes from the most recent XLS version (3.0) of the Ascher-Ascher Database available at:

A number of color conventions can be identified.

(1) The background colors of the cords present tend to be neutral (AA code "W") and varying shades (light to dark) and tints ("yellowish," "reddish", "olive", etc) of brown and gray.

(2) Actually the most commonly observed tint of brown is "yellowish." Of 10,573 cords described as being "brown" or "brownish" in color some 6,069 are described as being "yellowish brown." At the same time, not all khipus in the database use "yellowish brown" cords. At some point, therefore, there may be a need to "yellow" (or perhaps "light" or "dark" or "gray") "shift" the data on individual khipus to put them all in a standard form in order to analyze them properly across the whole AA database.

Such "color shifting" of data of individual khipus to standardize them across the whole database would have to be done carefully (on a spreadsheet, in a separate column) so as not to lose/compromise the original data.

(3) Multicolored cords (mottled, barberpole, joined) are more frequently used as subsidiary cords rather than directly as pendant cords. Of a total of 17,635 cords listed in the Ascher-Ascher database, 4012 (or 22.7%) are listed as being subsidiary cords. Yet the percentage of multicolored (mottled, barberpole, joined) cords used as subsidiary cords is 32.6%, 37%, 38.1% respectively, all much higher (30-45% higher in frequency) than the average 22.7% across the whole database. That this would be the case, can make sense if one thought that pendant cords would carry more primary information, and subsidiary cords carried secondary or more nuanced, modifying information.

(4) Further analysis of the data present in the tables surveying the characteristics of cords colored "olive/green", "orang/red", "blue" indicates:

(a) That generally one colored cords of this type appear in a limited number (1-4) of shades (light - dark), presumably the shades carrying particular meaning;

(b) Many (most) khipus have a clear formating:

(i) In some cases, all the pendant, or subsidiary cords, of a particular pendant group have exactly the same color;
(ii) In other cases, cords of a particular position within a number of pendant groups are of exactly the same color.

Both cases indicate obvious, if 2 different styles of formatting.

(5) Finally, use of the color descriptor words by which the Ascher-Ascher color codes are defined (rather than the Ascher-Ascher codes themselves) to analyze color offers one the possibility to better compare patterns over different khipus within a given data base because perhaps in one khipu cords labeled as being "deep olive" in color can be identified as "strong olive" or "dark grayish olive" or perhaps even labeled "mottled" elsewhere. The original khipumakers/readers could have done such "color shifting" quite naturally in making and reading khipus, but we have to be prepared to do so now in our computer analyses of the data present.

Tint or shade shifting of cord color listings to make better comparisons over the entire database are much more easily done now that the colors listed by the Aschers in their database are now listed both by the AA color codes and by means of the color descriptor words defining those codes.

Anyway, happy color analysis to everyone as well!

Please let others know here (ie through this blog...) if you come to other interesting insights as well!


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

ASCHER-ASCHER Color Codes vs their 3-4 word color descriptions

Hi folks,

I'm finding recourse to the 3-4 word descriptions for the colors of the cords listed in the Ascher-Ascher database far more useful than the two letter AA color codes. Obviously, the two letter codes were useful allowing the Aschers to tabulate their data in a managable way.

However, expanding the 2 letter labels to the 3-4 word descriptions of the colors present, is allowing one to see a number of things:

(1) While there may be as many as 8-10 different shades or tints of a particular color (say olive green) across the entire database (each shade/tint given its own two letter AA code), there may be only 2-3 of these shades or tints present in any particular khipu, often allowing one to recognize differences in lightness/darkness between the 2-3 shades/tints present.

(2) Besides observing 2-3 different shades of a particular tint (say of olive green, so that there would be a light olive green, olive green and/or dark olive green) some times a particular shade may also be mottled with another color (dark olive green mottled with neutral). So a particular tint (olive green) may appear in 2-3 shades of contrasting lightness/darkness + a mottled variety.

(3) Different khipus may exhibit slightly different descriptions of a particular tint. For example, one khipu may exhibit olive green while another may have grayish olive. Yet both khipus may exhibit 2-3 shades or tints of the color "olive" or "green" those 2-3 shades within each khipu could be contrasted as being either "lighter" or "darker."

Thus it probably useful to identify the 2-3 shades and tints of a particular color within particular khipus and then to recategorize them as:

(a) (olive) green LIGHT,
(b) (olive) green MODERATE
(c) (olive) green DARK


(d) (olive) green MOTTLED or COMPLEX

before making comparisons of potential meaning across the entire database.

(4) Regarding the presence of FUNDAMENTAL COLORS within the Ascher-Ascher database, it appears that the following colors (of various shades) appear:

(a) BROWN (light, moderate, dark, deep or vivid ...)
(b) GRAY (neutral, light, moderate, dark ...)
(c) YELLOWISH BROWN (light, moderate, dark, ...)
(d) ORANGE/REDDISH BROWN (light, moderate, dark, ...)
(e) OLIVE GREEN (light, moderate, dark
(f) BLUE or GREENISH BLUE (light, moderate, dark ...)

additionally, "grayish" varieties exist of all these

Note that ALL of these shades are naturally occuring in Andean Cotton. (I previously posted a number of links regarding naturally occuring Andean cotton of these varied shades. Click link here).

Note also, that a khipu maker presumably would rely on the cotton cords that he would have available. So in any given khipu, the shades that he/she used may be lighter or darker than the norm, or even more or less yellow, olive, orange/red than the norm. So one would have to take into account the presence or lack of brown (light, moderate, dark) cords in a khipu.

If there are no "brown" cords in a paricular khipu but an abundance of "yellowish" or "reddish" or "olive" cords present, the khipu may have to be "yellow", "red" or "olive" shifted in order to read it properly.

An Andean Khipumaker/reader would probably do this naturally, but if comparisons are to be made across the entire ASCHER-ASCHER database, then such "yellow", "red", "olive" shifting may occasionally be necessary.

Special colors:

Additionally, some colors are labeled as been particularly strong or deep. These may refer to dyed as opposed to naturally occurring varieties, but in any case, are certainly special (and generally lacking in brownness.

(a) Strong yellow
(b) Strong red
(c) Blue
(d) Black

(5) Finally, in terms of the use of a particular color shade and tint within a particular khipu, it is clear that:

(a) In some khipus, an entire pendant group (or the pendants or subsidiaries within a particular pendant group) are of the same color shade and tint.

(b) In other khipus, a cord of a particular shade and tint appears consistently in a particular position within pendant groups.

(c) In still khipus others, no easy pattern can be discerned.

My goal, of course, has been to eventually determine the conventions (that is, the grammar) used by the khipu makers in their use of cords of particular colors, tints, shades, and finally, even design (barberpole, mottled, joined cords).

Expanding the AA color labels to their 3-4 word descriptions appears to be aiding me(and perhaps you) in that process!


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Version 3.0 of Ascher-Ascher Database in XLS form available


I posted an updated (version 3.0) of the Ascher-Ascher Database today.

This version included the following changes:

(1) I added a column to the PENDANT INFO table which contains "cord length" info if Pendant Cords are of a composite "joined" (/) variety. This should allow simpler comparison and analysis of multicolored cords of this type.

(2) I added columns to the MAIN CORD INFO and PENDANT INFO tables giving the actual colors of the cords rather than just the AA Color Code labels. This also should allow more fruitful spreadsheet analysis of the colors of the cords listed in the database. For instance, one will be able to look for all cords that are listed as "strong" / "dark" / "moderate" / "light", "yellowish", "reddish", "bluish", etc, allowing one to make comparisions across the database that were much more difficult to do, if one only relied on the Ascher-Ascher Color Code labels.

(3) I added a VERSION HISTORY TABLE at the end of the database, both explaining the changes made to each version, as well as, offering one access to older versions of the database, if one wishes to access them.

One can access the 3.0 version of the database at:

Take care,