Gary Urton, Harvard University, Anthropology Department, Faculty Member. Studies Anthropology, Empire, and History. Gary Urton is. Gary Urton is the Dumbarton Oaks professor of pre-Columbian studies in the department of anthropology at Harvard University. His latest book is Inka History in. Gary Urton is Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Pre-Columbian Studies and Chairman of the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University. His research .

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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Add Social Profiles Facebook, Twitter, etc. Uurton research focuses on a variety of topics in pre-Columbian and early colonial Andean intellectual history, drawing on materials and methods in archaeology, ethnohistory, and ethnology. All of his books have also been translated and published in Spanish. The Invention of Taxation in the Inka Empire more. Several khipus-Inka knotted-string recording devices-were recently excavated at a storage facility at the Peruvian south coast site of Inkawasi, found buried under agricultural produce i.

These khipus contain a formulaic arrangement of numerical values not encountered on khipus from elsewhere in Tawantinsuyu the Inka Empire. The formula includes first, a large number, hypothesized to record the sum total of produce included in a deposit, followed by a “fixed number,” and then one or more additional numbers.

The fixed number plus the additional number s sum to the original large number. It is hypothesized that the fixed number represents an amount deducted from the deposit to support storage facility personnel. As such, it represented a tax assessed on deposits, hary first evidence we have for a system of taxation on goods in the Inka Empire. It tary proposed that the size and complexity of the storage facility at Inkawasi prompted the “invention” of a kind of financing instrument-taxation-not known previously from Inka administration.

We also considerbut provisionally set aside, the alternative hypothesis that the fixed values recorded on the Inkawasi khipus could have represented amounts of seeds set aside from deposits for the next year’s planting.

Proponemos que el valor fijo representa un monto que era deducido de yary productos almacenados en las qolqas para el mantenimiento del personal encargado y el fun-cionamiento de los almacenes.

John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Gary Urton

This article focuses on a linked pair of ” documents ” from mid-seventeenth-century coastal Peru. The analysis first examines a urtob an administrative ” revisit ” carried out in in settlements around the town of San Pedro de The analysis first examines urtln revisita an administrative ” revisit ” carried out in in settlements around the town of San Pedro de Corongo, in the lower Santa River Valley.

The document urtkn tributaries distributed across ueton six ayllus, all but two of whom are identified by name. Tribute is assessed on this new census count. The information in the revisit is then compared to the organization of a group of six khipus knotted-string recording devices jrton were said to have been recovered from a burial in the Santa Valley.

The six khipus are organized into a total of color-coded groups of six cords. The knot values on the first cords of the six-cord groups total the same value as the tribute assessed in the revisit document, and it is argued on these grounds that the khipus and the revisit document pertain to the same administrative procedure.


The attachment knots of the first cords of the six-cord groups vary in a binary fashion by attachment type i. It is argued that this construction feature divides the tributaries identified in the revisit into moieties; therefore, the khipus constitute a gloss on the social organization of the population identified in the revisit document. It is suggested that the names of the tributaries may be signed by color coding in the khipus.

Clindaniel, Jon and Gary Urton. A Personal History of Knot Knowing more.

Writing the History of an Ancient Civilization without Writing: Reading the Inka Khipus as Primary Sources more. Students of the Inka khipu or quipu, Quechua for ” knot “the knotted-string devices used for record keeping in the Inka Empire, have long been frustrated by our inability to interpret the information recorded on these devices, Students of the Inka khipu or quipu, Quechua for ” knot “the knotted-string devices used for record keeping in the Inka Empire, have long been frustrated by our inability to interpret the information recorded on these devices, especially since Spanish chroniclers say that any indigenous, first-hand information on Inka history was registered on khipus.

This article argues, first, that we are now able to interpret many Inka administrative khipus, and second, that when we succeed in compiling numerous administrative interpretations, or readings, they can be assembled into an indigenous history of the Inka Empire. It is further argued that such a history would follow the contours of an Annales history, the style of history writing that privileged administrative records, such as censuses and tribute records, over those focusing on the lives and deeds of individuals.

The article then questions how the Inkas conceived of and structured history. Their history may not have been structured like Western linear history, but rather in cyclical form, with events repeated over time comparison is made to the Gada system of Ethiopia.

Aesthetics of a Line, Entangled in a Network. The only available indigenous preconquest information pertaining to Inka recordings of numbers and values is locked up in still only partially deciphered knotted cord khipus.

This study first discusses how numerical data were registered This study first discusses how numerical data were registered in general and then analyzes the organization of numerical data and color coding in a complexly formatted khipu from the south coast of Peru. This case allows for an exploration of the registration of status and prestige differences as an example of the construction of value in a social context. The discussion turns to possible means of recording three basic formulations of value in Inka political economy: Focus in the latter value form is on sacred places wakas in the landscape, including a consideration of ethnographic material illustrating by example one discursive practice by which places become sanctified through attachment to supposed ancestral events.

The study ends with speculation on the possible semiotic connection between place value in constructions of landscapes and in the Inka positional base 10 numeration system.

Accounting in the King’s Storehouse: The Inkawasi Khipu Archive more. From Knots to Narratives: Radiocarbon chronology of Andean Khipus more. Andean ArchaeologyAndean studiesand Ancient writing. Numeral Graphic Pluralism in the Colonial Andes more. Tying the Truth in Knots: Trustworthiness and Accountability in the Inka Khipu.


From Middle Horizon cord-keeping to the rise of Inka khipus in the central Andes. A New Twist in an Old Yarn: Variation in Knot Directionality in the Inka Khipus more. Recording measure ment s in the Inka Khipu more.

Tying the Archive in Knots Recording Signs in Narrative-Accounting Khipu more. Dos khipus wari del Horizonte Medio provenientes de Castillo de Huarmey. Information Control in the Palace of Puruchuco: Sin, confession, and the Arts of Book- and Cord-Keeping: Knotted-cord Record Keeping in the Ancient Andes more.

Contesting the Past in the Peruvian Andes. Animals and Astronomy in the Quechua Universe more. The Body of Meaning in Chavin Art. Andean Archaeology and Andean studies.

Moieties and Ceremonialism in the Andes: Andean ArchaeologyWarfare urtpn, and Andean studies. The stranger in Andean communities. Public Architecture as Social Text: ArchitectureAndean Archaeologyand Andean studies. Waiting to return to life? Andean ArchaeologyMummy Studiesand Andean studies.

A Multi-Year Tukapu Calendar more. The Cruciform in Quechua Astronomy more. Astronomy and Calendrics on the Coast of Peru. Is Poverty in Our Genes? We present a critique of a ufton written by two economists, Quamrul Ashraf and Oded Galor, which is forthcoming in the American Economic Review and which was uncritically highlighted in Science magazine.

Their paper claims there is a Their paper claims there is a causal effect of genetic diversity on economic success, positing that too much or too little genetic garry constrains development.

As economists and other social scientists begin exploring newly available genetic data, it is hrton to remember that nonexperts broadcasting bold claims on the basis of weak data and methods can have profoundly detrimental social and political effects.

ArchaeologyAnthropologyEvolutionary geneticsand Economic Anthropology. Syllabus for seminar on the Inka Khipus more. I-This course will explore one of the most remarkable and mysterious artifacts of the ancient Americas: The Spanish conquistadores and priests described this technology krton none of them really understood it.

We will investigate such issues as: What were the precursors to Inca quipus? Did quipu recording represent a system of writing? How standardized were recording methods across the empire? And what became of the practice of recording on knotted cords following the Spanish conquest?

Students will have the opportunity to make quipus, in order to understand how these remarkable objects were made and used, and we will study quipu samples in the Peabody Museum.

Students will write a research paper on a topic worked out with the professor. Gonzalez Diaz Autoctonia more.

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Reading Khipus as Primary Sources more. Inka History in Knots: Reading Utron as Primary Sources cover more. This article focuses on a linked pair of ” documents ” from mid th century coastal Peru. The analysis first examines a revisita an administrative ” revisit ” carried out in in settlements around the town of San Pedro de Corongo, The six khipus are organized into a total of color coded six-cord groups of cords.