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Jason Cawley
Wolfram Science Group
Phoenix, AZ USA

Registered: Aug 2003
Posts: 712

science article on deciphering Inca accounting

There is a fun article in the August 12 Science, "Khipu Accounting in Ancient Peru", that turns on spotting relationships and patterns in data from knotted cords, that I thought might be of some interest. Computers are assisting archeology in unexpected ways, it appears. The article is on page 1065.

The researchers are Gary Urton and Carrie Brezine from Harvard. Here is their abstract -

Khipu are knotted-string devices that were used for bureaucratic recording and communication in the Inka Empire. We recently undertook a computer analysis of 21 khipu from the Inka administrative center of Puruchuco, on the central coast of Peru. Results indicate that this khipu archive exemplifies the way in which census and tribute data were synthesized, manipulated, and transferred between different accounting levels in the Inka admininstrative system.

There is a related article on page 1008 giving an overview of their results. They also have a website, here -


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