Did the civilization behind Machu Picchu really fail to develop a written language?
...The Incas never developed the arch, either—another common hallmark of civilization—yet the temples of Machu Picchu, built on a rainy mountain ridge atop two fault lines, still stand after more than 500 years while the nearby city of Cusco has been leveled twice by earthquakes. The Inca equivalent of the arch was a trapezoidal shape tailored to meet the engineering needs of their seismically unstable homeland. Likewise, the Incas developed a unique way to record information, a system of knotted cords called khipus (sometimes spelled quipus). In recent years, the question of whether these khipus were actually a method of three-dimensional writing that met the Incas' specific needs has become one of the great unsolved mysteries of the Andes.
No one disputes that the Incas were great collectors of information. When a battalion of Spanish conquistadors, led by the ruthless Francisco Pizarro, arrived in 1532, the invaders were awed by the Inca state's organization. Years' worth of food and textiles were carefully stockpiled in storehouses. To keep track of all this stuff, the empire employed khipucamayocs, a specially trained caste of khipu readers....
comments powered by Disqus
- Harvard's Steven Shapin Wins History of Science Award
- Middle East Studies Association Fights a Rising Tide of Critics
- Juan Cole says the postwar Middle East governments were modeled on the Soviet Union, though not communist (interview)
- Ted Widmer picks the 5 best presidential books worth reading
- AHA backs California's LGBT History law