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Arts of the Americas

This administrative quipu, which consists of three different quipus attached along the primary cord, was used to record statistical information, such as taxes, census data, and storehouse inventories (see illustration).

Administrative quipus are characterized by pendant cords with tiers of knots separated by spaces that indicate decimal values—what we would understand as the individual columns of digits in a numbering system, such as units (1 through 9), tens, hundreds, and thousands. The twist direction of the cords is almost always Z-spun and S-plied. The Inca used three main knots (visible on this quipu) to signify numerical values: figure-eight knots, long knots, and single knots. Each knot type signified a different unit of measurement (see diagram).

Cord color also had significance; however, its meaning is at present unknown. The plain white, reddish-brown, and tan cords on the right are blanks for future use.

Este quipu administrativo, compuesto de tres quipus distintos adjuntos a lo largo de la cuerda primaria, fue utilizado para registrar información estadística, como índices de impuestos, datos del censo e inventarios de almacenes (ver ilustración).

Los quipus administrativos se caracterizan por tener unas cuerdas colgantes con hileras de nudos separados por espacios que indican valores decimales, lo que para nosotros serían columnas individuales de dígitos en un sistema numérico, como unidades (1 al 9), decenas, centenas y millares. La orientación del giro de las cuerdas es casi siempre hilado en S, y cruzado en Z. Los incas usaban tres nudos principales (visibles en este quipu) para indicar valores numéricos: nudos con forma de 8, nudos largos y nudos individuales. Cada nudo significa una unidad diferente de medida (ver diagrama).

El color de la cuerda también tenía importancia; sin embargo, su significado hasta hoy es desconocido. Las cuerdas lisas de color blanco, marrón rojizo y bronce a mano derecha, están disponibles para uso futuro.
DATES 1400–1532
PERIOD Pre-Columbian
DIMENSIONS 15 3/8 x 30 5/16 in. (39 x 77 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
CREDIT LINE Gift of Ernest Erickson
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Inca (attrib by Nobuko Kajatani and Anne Rowe, 1993). Quipu, 1400–1532. Cotton, 15 3/8 x 30 5/16 in. (39 x 77 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Ernest Erickson, 70.177.69. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , 70.177.69_PS9.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 70.177.69_PS9.jpg., 2018
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Inca (attrib by Nobuko Kajatani and Anne Rowe, 1993). <em>Quipu</em>, 1400–1532. Cotton, 15 3/8 x 30 5/16 in.  (39 x 77 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Ernest Erickson, 70.177.69. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , 70.177.69_PS9.jpg)