A quipu (khipu) was a method used by the Incas and other ancient Andean cultures to keep records and communicate information using string and knots. In the absence of an alphabetic writing system, this simple and highly portable device achieved a surprising degree of precision and flexibility. Quipu could record dates, statistics, accounts, and even abstract ideas. Quipu are still used today across South America.
Quipu use a wide variety of colours, strings, and sometimes several hundred knots all tied in various ways at various heights. These combinations can even represent, in abstract form, key episodes from traditional folk stories and poetry. In recent years scholars have also challenged the traditional view that quipu were merely a memory aid device and go so far as to suggest that quipu may have been progressing towards narrative records and so becoming a viable alternative to written language just when the Inca Empire collapsed.
How far back?
2020 | Present