Manny Medrano cut loose on spring break by analyzing a set of khipus. With the help of his professor, Gary Urton, a scholar of Pre-Columbian studies, Medrano interpreted a set of six khipus, knotted cords used for record keeping in the Inca Empire. By matching the khipus to a colonial-era Spanish census document, Medrano and Urton uncovered the meaning of the cords in greater detail than ever before. Their findings could contribute to a better understanding of daily life in the Andean civilization.
Sabine Hyland researches Andean anthropology at the University of St. Andrews. She has read Medrano and Urton’s forthcoming paper and describes their discoveries as “thrilling.”
“Manny has proven that the way in which pendant cords are tied to the top cord indicates which social group an individual belonged to. This is the first time anyone has shown that and it’s a big deal,” Hyland says.
Urton is now optimistic that the six khipus examined in the research could serve as a key to decode the hundreds of others he has in his database. The colors of the cords as they relate to first names could hint at the meanings of colors in other khipus, for example.
“There’s a lot we can draw on from this one case,” Urton says.
Potential to better understand Inca history
But what’s most exciting to Urton and Medrano is the potential to better understand Inca history from the indigenous point of view. As Medrano puts it, “history has been written from the perspective of the conquerors and to reverse that hierarchy is what I see this project as doing.”
Read the full article here: AtlasObscura.com