News FocusArchaeology

Unraveling Khipu's Secrets

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Science  12 Aug 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5737, pp. 1008-1009
DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5737.1008

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Researchers are moving toward understanding the communicative power of khipu, the Inca's enigmatic knotted strings, which wove an empire together. On page 1065 of this issue, researchers identify one way that data and instructions were passed up and down the Inca administrative hierarchy and tentatively identify the first known khipu "word." Other researchers have independently announced a very early example of khipu; if verified, the find suggests that khipu were one of the world's oldest complex recording systems.