Polychrome Khipu

11008119-2002_001_130_Bpa_ARC.tif

Title

Polychrome Khipu

Keywords

Textile

Date

ca. 1430 - 1534 AD

Context

Late Horizon
South America, Central Andes, Central Coast
Inka

Medium/Dimensions

Cotton, indigo dye
26 1/2 x 23 in. (67.3 x 58.4 cm)

Object Number

2002.001.130

Description

The Inka Empire conquered more than 3,000 miles of western South America in less than a century, making it the world's largest political entity of its time. This vast territory was organized, its population counted, tribute recorded, history and poetry written in knotted strings, called khipu.

Khipu have a main string that runs horizontally, the main cord, read from left to right. Dangling down from it are pendants, made from various colors of thread (beige, brown, and blue could be combined to look mottled or striped and even change halfway down the thread). Knots tied in the pendants divided numbers up into decimal units (one's, ten's, hundred's) with the one's place farthest from the main cord. These numbers might represent quantities (235 potatoes) or they might be a code (235 signifies potatoes).

This khipu is both typical and unusual. It is medium in size, with 32 pendants, and its numbers range from 160 down to 0 (the second group of strings from the left consists of ten unknotted cords). The usual white to brown thread colors predominate, but its blue threads are atypical. Blue, from the indigo plant, is very hard to dye, so blue represents a rare and prestigious element. A group of khipu from the northeastern Inka Empire also demonstrate this shade of blue, so this one could be from that area. The blue could mean that something precious was being recorded, like fancy textiles or goldwork, perhaps given as tribute to the ruler or the state religion.

Credit Line

Ex coll. C. Clay and Virginia Aldridge

Exhibits/Publications

MCCM Newsletter, September - November 2002.|
Michael C. Carlos Museum: Highlights of the Collections (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2011), 82.

Rights

© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2008.
This image is provided by the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University, who retains all rights in it. This image is made available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined by United States law. For all other uses, please contact the Michael C. Carlos Museum Office of Collections Services at +1(404) 727-4282 or mccm.collections.services@emory.edu. Users must cite the author and source of the image as they would material from any printed work, but not in any way that implies endorsement of the user or the user's use of the image. Users may not remove any copyright, trademark, or other proprietary notices, including without limitation attribution information, credits, and copyright notices that have been placed on or near the image by the Museum. The Museum assumes no responsibility for royalties or fees claimed by the artist or third parties. The User agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Emory University, its Michael C. Carlos Museum, its agents, employees, faculty members, students and trustees from and against any and all claims, losses, actions, damages, expenses, and all other liabilities, including but not limited to attorney’s fees, directly or indirectly arising out of or resulting from its use of photographic images for which permission is granted hereunder.

On View

No

Citation

“Polychrome Khipu,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed December 10, 2018, http://carlos.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/7962.

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