Signs of the Inka Khipu: Binary Coding in the Andean Knotted-String Records

October 31, 2020
Signs of the Inka Khipu: Binary Coding in the Andean Knotted-String Records

In an age when computers process immense amounts of informationby the manipulation of sequences of 1s and 0s, it remains afrustrating mystery how prehistoric Inka recordkeepers encoded atremendous variety and quantity of data using only knotted and dyedstrings. Yet the comparison between computers and khipu may hold animportant clue to deciphering the Inka records. In this book, GaryUrton sets forth a pathbreaking theory that the manipulation offibers in the construction of khipu created physical features thatconstitute binary-coded sequences which store units of informationin a system of binary recordkeeping that was used throughout theInka empire.Urton begins his theory with the making of khipu,showing how at each step of the process binary, either/or choiceswere made. He then investigates the symbolic components of thebinary coding system, the amount of information that could havebeen encoded, procedures that may have been used for reading thekhipu, the nature of the khipu signs, and, finally, the nature ofthe khipu recording system itself - emphasizing relations ofmarkedness and semantic coupling.This research constitutes a major step forward in building aunified theory of the khipu system of information storage andcommunication based on the sum total of construction featuresmaking up these extraordinary objects.