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Record-keeping Khipu

A record-keeping khipu

A khipu--which means "knot" in the native Inca language--in the collection of the Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin.

Khipus (also called "quipu" in Spanish) were recording devices used for record keeping during the Inca empire and also by later societies in the Andean region. Khipus were generally made from colored thread that had been spun and plied. The thread came from llama or alpaca hair or cotton cords and had numeric and other values encoded by knots in a base 10 positional system. They could consist of just a few strands or up to 2,000.

The full purpose of khipus has yet to be realized, but anthropologists believe they were used to record the information most important to the state including accounting and data related to censuses, finance and taxes, and the military. (Date of Image: July 1992)

Credit: Courtesy Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin; Photo by Gary Urton
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