Threads That Speak: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Inca
The Inca Empire are known for their impressive engineering and architecture, but also created detailed textiles. Like the civilizations that came before them, the Inca lacked a written language. To record information, the Inca used quipus, or knotted textiles also called khipus. Made from cotton or animal hair, quipus are created with multiple knotted strings hanging vertically from a single horizontal string.
Quipus were most likely used for more than recording numbers, and could have been a way to record historical information. One study shows that quipus were used as documents in an accounting system passed up through the Inca bureaucracy.
At the site of Incahuasi in the Cañete Valley, archaeologists have found—for the first time—dozens of quipus buried alongside centuries-old produce. They appear to have been used for accounting in agricultural storage houses to record the amount of wood, beans, corn, chili peppers, and other items moving throughout the complex.
- National Geographic