Subject indicators and the decipherment of genre on Andean khipus

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This article analyzes how khipus, Andean knotted cords for communication, indicated their subject matter. Spanish chroniclers attested to the existence of different genres of khipus; however, scholars have not known how or if khipus indicated the genre of data they stored. Ethnographic testimony reveals that needlework bundles—kaytes—attached to primary cords served as subject indicators. This article surveys post-Inka kaytes, examining one from colonial Huarochirí through an interdisciplinary methodology that provides a model for kayte interpretation. This new evidence about subject indicators supports the hypothesis that khipus encoded information through hierarchical levels of significance, and furthers decipherment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-158
JournalAnthropological Linguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2021


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