How khipus indicated labour contributions in an Andean village: an explanation of colour banding, seriation and ethnocategories

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Abstract

New archival and ethnographic evidence reveals that Inka style khipus were used in the Andean community of Santiago de Anchucaya to record contributions to communal labour obligations until the 1940s. Archival testimony from the last khipu specialist in Anchucaya, supplemented by interviews with his grandson, provides the first known expert explanation for how goods, labour obligations, and social groups were indicated on Inka style Andean khipus. This evidence, combined with the analysis of Anchucaya khipus in the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología y Historia Peruana, furnishes a local model for the relationship between the two most frequent colour patterns (colour banding and seriation) that occur in khipus. In this model, colour banding is associated with individual data whilst seriation is associated with aggregated data. The archival and ethnographic evidence also explains how labour and goods were categorized in uniquely Andean ways as they were represented on khipus.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-509
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Material Culture
Volume21
Issue number4
Early online date10 Aug 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016

Keywords

  • Andes
  • Ethno-accounting
  • Incas
  • Khipus
  • Peru
  • Writing system

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