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Archaeological InterpretationsSymbolic Meaning within Andes Prehistory$
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Peter Eeckhout

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780813066448

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813066448.001.0001

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Twisting and Spinning from Symbols to Signs

Twisting and Spinning from Symbols to Signs

From Chavín to Tawantinsuyu

(p.92) 4 Twisting and Spinning from Symbols to Signs
Archaeological Interpretations
Gary Urton
University Press of Florida

The Inca khipus—the principal record-keeping device used for administrative and narrative records in the Inca Empire—is usually thought of in terms of its display of signs (e.g., cord groups and color differences denoting categories of objects; knot clusters signifying decimal values). In this chapter, however, it is argued that both in their materiality, which in a few cases includes iconography, and in the elaborate displays of khipus by the cord-keepers (the khipukamayuqs) during cord-reading performances, there were numerous symbolic elements at play as well. This description and analysis of signs and symbols in khipus and khipu-reading performances provides the setting for comments on the relationship between signs and symbols in pre-Columbian Andean art and material culture more generally.

Keywords:   Andean art, Iconography, Inca Empire, khipus

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