Knot anomalies on Inka khipus: revising Locke's knot typology

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In 2007, in the IV Actas de las Jornadas Internacionales sobre Textiles Precolombinos, Kylie Quave noted the existence of various structural anomalies in khipus presumed to date to the Late Horizon. These anomalies included the use of non-cotton vegetal fibres, the inclusion of single red strings, subsidiary cords that are plied through rather than half hitched, and the placement of long knots and figure-8 knots “in a way that precludes a numerical reading”. Since Quave’s article, there has been little examination of such anomalies, nor have scholars known whether such anomalies were to be found in khipus that had been radiocarbon dated to the Late Horizon, or whether they occurred only in post-Inka khipus. This chapter examines anomalies in a khipu radiocarbon dated to the Late Horizon (475+-26 cal BP), focusing on a specific type of anomalous knot, referred to as a “nether knot”, which occurs below the unit position on a khipu pendant in a zone where, according to Locke’s knot typology, no knot should be present. Nether knots, which are found on one or more pendants in over 20% of the khipus in the Online Khipu Repository, the world’s largest khipu database, form a significant feature of the khipu corpus. This article proposes a reading of nether knots based on ethnographic analogy with nether knots on 20th century khipus. A better understanding of nether knots allows us to provide more precise readings for the khipus that contain them, necessitating a revision to Leland Locke’s influential knot typology.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationActas de la IX jornada internacional de textiles precolumbinos y amerindios
EditorsCarolina Orsini, Federica Villa
Place of PublicationLincoln, NE
PublisherZea Books
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781609623043
ISBN (Print)9781609623036
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2024
EventIX International Pre-Columbian and Amerindian Textiles Conference - Mudec – Museo delle Culture, Milan, Italy
Duration: 19 Oct 202222 Oct 2022
Conference number: 9


ConferenceIX International Pre-Columbian and Amerindian Textiles Conference
Internet address


  • Khipu
  • Peru
  • Andean
  • Ethnomathematics


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