The Inka never developed writing but instead had a system of tying knots called khipu in which the color, direction and structure of the knots communicated different information. While most of it is numerical, fully cracking the code reveal a phonetic khipu alphabet with records of history.

The Inka Empire Recorded Their World In Knotted Cords Called Khipu

Planet Earth

The great South American civilization used complex knots and fibers for record-keeping and communication.

More than 400 pendants hang from the primary cord of a khipu, an example of the complex record-keeping system used throughout the Inka Empire and beyond, even well into the 20th century. | Sam Ogden, Khipu Gift of Robert Woods Bliss and President and Fellows of Harvard College, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, PM# 42-28-30/4532

High in the Peruvian Andes, in the remote village of San Juan de Collata, sits a wooden box that’s sacred to the locals who keep close guard over it. It contains 487 cords of twisted and dyed animal fibers that, according to its caretakers, encode messages planning an 18th-cen… Continue Reading (10 minute read)

14 thoughts on “The Inka never developed writing but instead had a system of tying knots called khipu in which the color, direction and structure of the knots communicated different information. While most of it is numerical, fully cracking the code reveal a phonetic khipu alphabet with records of history.”

  1. alimagrog

    Why did the article write it as “Inka” instead of Inca?

  2. ThymeIsTight

    Seeking skilled writer for the Machu Picchu Times. Can you knot?

    I cannot.

    You’re hired!

  3. Adam_Wesley

    I wonder if this is what inspired how people write in Apples show SEE.

  4. vadnerzee

    This must be where Patrick Rothfuss got the idea for Yllish knots.

  5. tjagonis

    This just made a little piece of Death Stranding click in my head.

  6. TotalBall9352

    The Inca did develop writing and used quipu as a tally system, sort of like an abacus.

  7. DoctorElich

    Ok, it might not be “writing” but it’s information storage in fixed form using a coded protocol that everyone is familiar with. I’d have to say that’s just as good, and maybe even better in some ways. It’s odd how much we don’t give credit where credit is due, talking like these guys weren’t genius for this shit.

  8. rodrodblahblah

    If you write a theory in this way, you create a string theory.

  9. His_Desolate_Domain

    So, basically they had a “writing system”, just an incredibly esoteric one. This was a heavily agricultural civilization with precise mathematics (the amount of planning that went into their architecture was immense). I know writing systems have only developed independently a few times but it always seemed odd that the Inca or their precursors wouldn’t have had at least something, even if it didn’t meet the exact definition of a writing system.

  10. Pika_is_Gay

    I remember my 6th grade social studies teacher said that they didn’t speak besides just grunts like cavemen. I can’t believe she even taught children, because everything seemed made up.

  11. steam-magus42

    The Inca are so fascinating! They were basically the Romans of the New World. They built thousands of miles of roads and built pretty stable bridges out of grass. They had storehouses for surplus supplies so they could have that thing when they ran out. The people they conquered most of the time preferred being under them, just like with the Romans, because their lives would improve greatly. They were also one of the only civilizations for a while to have enough gold that they could have dedicated goldsmiths as a common profession. The Inca are just really cool

  12. 05-weirdfishes

    Charles Mann’s book 1492, which talks alot about the Incas, argues that the khipu were in fact a writing system similar to the way computer coding works. I’m not an expert in inca history nor am I an expert in coding so this could be wrong, but I found it fascinating all the same.

  13. ninabullets

    I mean, it is writing, just not in a way I’ve ever seen it before. Fantastic.

  14. sap200

    Found Quipu in death stranding few days ago, glad to discover from where they come from, thx 🙂

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