The Inca did not have a written language but they did store and transfer information via a system of knots in rope that is still being decoded

Harvard undergrad cracks code of knotted Inca rope used as ‘an ancient Excel spreadsheet’

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Instead of partying during his spring break, Harvard undergrad Manny Medrano stayed on campus and deciphered the meaning of an ancient Inca khipu.

Khipus are knotted string devices used by the Inca people to record information like censuses and tax records.

“For about a hundred years, researchers have understood that many of these artifacts — there’s about 1,000 of these khipus still in existence today — encoded mathematical data,” Medrano, 21, told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.

“Kind of like an ancient Excel spreadsheet.”

But Medrano discovered that the ropes may, in fact, contain far more than just numbers.

Their complex colour system, he said, appears also to represent more complex nar… Continue Reading (3 minute read)

12 thoughts on “The Inca did not have a written language but they did store and transfer information via a system of knots in rope that is still being decoded”

  1. oh-no-godzilla

    (Fisherman untangles his nets)

    “Damnit Frank that was the novel I’ve been working on for the past month!”

  2. rhymes_with_chicken

    > Pachacútec: is that a joke you’re working on there

    > Manco: Nah, a frayed knot

  3. JustAToxicMeg

    Gold ones were the keys to the golden cities.

  4. Fuhged_daboud_it

    Khipu is the most common first-line for the Incan Empire or Incas in Quiz Bowl, it’s good stuff to remember.

  5. CowMajorAU

    How do people go about decoding an entire language?

  6. notaredditeryet

    Quipu? I thought that was a number system and the size of a knot represents a larger or smaller number. I mean pretty cool tho that they used that for words too.

  7. ileisen

    That sounds a lot like a written language but in a different medium. We just scrawled symbols on rocks and bits of dead trees.

  8. Plasticonoband

    Psh, the Yllish people did it first.

  9. yazzy1233

    They do this in See, i thought that was cool

  10. the_last_fartbender

    Hopeful Suitor: – “Sir, may I please take your daughters hand in marriage?”

    Later that day…

    Daughter – “What did my father say?”

    Expectant Suitor – “He just gave me this…” \*hands over rope\*

    Daughter – “A frayed knot?”

  11. Xellith

    I learned this as a small child after watching The Mysterious Cities of gold. It’s a French/Japanese collaborative anime and has been in my heart ever since I first saw it. I showed it my niece when she was about 8 when she came to stay for a few days. Within a few hours she was asking me for paper and drawing all the characters. Was so heartwarming to pass on that feeling to someone else.

    The anime itself was commissioned as long as it was educational, so the end of each episode had a 10-15 min documentary talking about aspects of the episode just shown. Definitely worth a watch, especially if you have small kids.

    edit: please make sure you look at the content of it before showing kids. Depending on your parenting style you might object to what the kids might see or things that are implied in some scenes. As a 6 year old I loved it 😀

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