DMA Insight

Inca (Inka) Quipu (Khipu) at the Dallas Museum of Art: The Nora and John Wise Collection

Andean cultures did not have a recognizable written script prior to the Spanish conquest in the early 1530s; however, the Inca did utilize a method of recording through knotted cords, known as quipu (khipu; “knot” in Quechua). The Nora and John Wise Collection at the Dallas Museum of Art includes nineteen quipu fragments. The quipu (khipu) have Z-spun, S-plied cords. According to Ann Rowe and Gary Urton, the Inca (Inka) generally used Z-spun and S-plied yarn in weaving textiles and within quipu.[1], [2]

[1] Textile specialist Ann Pollard Rowe is the former Curator of Western Hemisphere Collections at The Textile Museum, Washington, DC. Gary Urton is the Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Pre-Columbian Studies at Harvard University, and a specialist in Andean archaeology, particularly the khipu.

[2] Gary Urton, Signs of the Inka Khipu: Binary Coding in the Andean Knotted-String Records (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2003): 66.

Adapted from

  • Kimberly L. Jones, PhD, Inca: Conquests of the Andes / Los Incas y las conquistas de los Andes, Label text [1983.W.2174], 2015.
  • Kylie Quave, PhD, DMA unpublished material, 2006.

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