What’s a Kipu?

The name Kipu came from the South American Andes word “Quipu.” It comes from the native Quechua language that means “talking knots.” These talking knots were used as recording devices for things such as taxes, census data, and even military calculations. A farmer could track the number of sheep or horses he had. Alternatively, a trader could track inventory or orders. Each cluster of knots is a digit, and there are three main types of knots: simple overhand knots, “long knots,” consisting of an overhand knot with one or more additional turns, and figure-eight knots. In the Aschers’ system, the fourth type of knot, the figure-of-eight knot with an extra twist, is referred to as “EE.” A number is represented as a sequence of knot clusters in base 10.