The Testimony of Hands


2000.6.1, quipu from the Andean region of South America
Inca empire? (A.D. 1200–1533)
Unknown donor
Photographs by B. Bernard

The Inca managed their empire by coding information on cords. Variations in cord colors and knot shapes increased the information content beyond a simple binary system. Specialists could run their fingers through the quipus and in short order, obtain information on the empire's resources and their distributions. The longest hanging strand on this quipu is about 40 centimeters (16 inches) long. The next photograph shows details of the cordage and knots.

200.6.1, detail

The quipu is supposedly authentic but its colors are so vibrant, it is difficult to imagine it being half a millenium old. It may instead be a modern copy.

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All content copyright © Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, University of New Mexico. A high-resolution verson of this photograph may be ordered from the Maxwell Museum's photo archives. Please make note of the catalogue number. For more information please visit the photo archives web page

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