Is Secret Inca History Hidden in Knots?


The Incans of South America have a lot
in common with your average boy scout. They’re both of a small stature and ooh they look good in a ‘kerchief. But more than anything else – mmm, they loved a good knot. Where they just tying knots, OR.. …Were they tying a secret history in a
secret knotty code? If you happen to find yourself in Lima, Peru you should check out the Larco Museum. Oh, what a good time. They have an
excellent gift shop but also, oh I don’t know.. … How about an ancient text written entirely in knots? What you might think is a bunch of
headphones that have been a pocket for a minute is actually called a ‘khipu’. Now, there are very few khipus remaining
because after the conquest of the continent ‘ol Catholics decided to burn them all
up, claiming the knots were devil’s work. “Never tie two ropes together: it is an
unholy union. We’re not so hot on pretzels either.” However, an ancient order of monks called Mercedarians, active in sixteenth-century Peru,
sought to preserve much of the Incan culture and language, archiving many of
the khipu. For a long time, historians believed khipu were just a way of counting, like a stringy travel abacus or a fuzzy calculator The Mercedarians that still exist today claim the khipu hold as much information as a scroll. According to a book written by a 16th
century monk, the khipu recounted the events of the time – when the Incas reigned, the children he had, whether he was good or bad and sometimes, whether he was hot, or not… No written records exist of the Incas
before that knot-hatin’ conquest, so if we could decode the khipu, we’d learn a lot
about this cool little vanished people. But how do we decode ’em? Up in the mountain village of San Cristobal de Rapaz they have a khipu unlike any other
you’ll find in a museum, because the inhabitants of this town still use this
today as a sacred object. Oh is that a doll in there? What a cute khipu! But unfortunately,
the villagers don’t know how to decode the knots either. If we want to
translation, we’re going to need a Rosetta Stone. Or a.. string. Rosetta String. As it
happens, inside an ancient colonial church researchers have discovered it might be
just such a khipu. Ooh, the khipu keep on the left, the Spanish on the right. Oh that’s a sharp looking artifact!
However, is it too deteriorated to read? Well you slap a multispectral scanner on
that puppy and texts written centuries ago look like they were written just last decade. It appears we have our Rosetta wood-string-board thing and work is starting now to fully decipher the khipu and
learn the Incas’ secrets. We don’t have them right now
unfortunately; the Rosetta string-board thing only translates the khipu into
Spanish. So until there’s a way to translate Spanish, into English, the Incas’ secrets are gonna remain a mystery for a lot of us. And now: it’s time for my personal theory. If a shirt could die, isn’t a khipu what its
skeleton would look like? Makes sense to me. They’re just a bunch of dead shirts! Coats, schmoats. You guys kill me. Get outta here, history! The video down here looks
good. Ooh and this one over here, that looks like it’d be a fun time! I don’t know, I’m not telling you what I
think is fun. [whispers] Watch another video! You’re gonna love it.

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