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Unraveling the Relationship between Color and Meaning of Cords in Matching and Related Inka Khipu

Author(s): Dennis Ogburn

Year: 2016

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Colors of cords in Inka khipu are of great interest because it has long been understood that they were meant to convey specific meanings, namely indicating the individual category being encoded in a particular position on a khipu. Colonial authors such as Calancha and Garcilaso de la Vega made claims regarding what certain colors symbolized, but studies of extant khipu have yet to definitively correlate colors with specific meanings. Before we can begin to understand the correlation between color and meaning, we need to assess to what extent color choices were standardized within and between the different levels at which khipu were created and used within the empire. Here I discuss observations regarding the level of standardization of colors within individual khipu, between those in matching sets, and between related khipu comprising an accounting hierarchy; these observations are derived from my analysis of data tables for two large matching khipu from Coastal Peru and for a set of three khipu from Ica that make up an accounting hierarchy. Results suggest that, at least for these khipu, color choice was consistent in some cases but variable in many others, and that pendant position was perhaps most important for conveying meaning.

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Unraveling the Relationship between Color and Meaning of Cords in Matching and Related Inka Khipu. Dennis Ogburn. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403321)


Inka Khipu

Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America