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(quipu, “knot,” in the language of the Quechua Indians), a “writing” system consiting of knots, which existed among a number of Indian peoples in South America; the quipu was most widely known and used in the ancient Inca empire in what is now Peru.

The quipu consists of a thick cord or stick to which varying numbers of thinner cords were attached perpendicularly. The cords differed in color (which had symbolic meaning), length, number, and shape of the knots tied on them. Opinions vary as to the function of the quipu; according to the most questionable notion, the quipu contains the texts of chronicles, laws, decrees, and poetic works; according to another theory the quipu signifies only numerals—that is, it was a mnemonic device used for counting (the present-day Quechua Indians in Peru use the quipu for keeping accounts of livestock); since the oldest quipus were discovered in burials, a third theory suggests that they served as a part of burial rituals.


Diringer, D. Alfavit. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from English.)
Jensen, H. Die Schrift. Berlin, 1969.