LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.5

Help for SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE Archives


SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE Archives

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE Archives


SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE@LIST.UVM.EDU


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE Home

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE Home

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  June 2003

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE June 2003

Subject:

Khipu: Incan 13th Century Computer

From:

"S. E. Anderson" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 29 Jun 2003 15:26:18 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (190 lines)

NOTE: Another Western Journalist reporting on the fundamental
"multicultural" nature of mathematics and, therefore, the centrality
of peoples of color being the founders of mathematical thinking
and practices.

The Quipu (or Khipu) has come to Western mathematical academic
circles as "discovery" back in the 70's and 80's by progressive
math and science educators challenging the Eurocentric nature
of Western Education... particularly in the mathematical and
scientific fields of study. Maurice Bazin's pioneering pedagogical
work at the Exploritorium <www.exploratoriumstore.com/msac.html>
culminating in a book: "Math and Science Across Cultures" and
George Gheverghese Joseph's "The Crest of the Peacock" (Princeton
University Press) books have placed the Incan mathematical pioneering
work in their proper historical and cultural perspective.

These books, exchanges and trainings have directly contributed
to a new wave of research by indigenous scholars into the profundity
of mathematical thinking among their respctive pre-Columbian/pre-slavery
ancestors.

It also shows that a computer does not have to be electrical
based.


MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
Inca may have used knot computer code ======================================


http://news.independent.co.uk/world/science_medical/story.jsp?story=418049


The Independent (UK)

Inca may have used knot computer code to bind empire
By Steve Connor, Science Editor

They ran the biggest empire of their age, with a vast network
of roads, granaries, warehouses and a complex system of government.
Yet the Inca, founded in about AD1200 by Manco Capac, were unique
for such a significant civilisation: they had no written language.
This has been the conventional view of the Inca, whose dominions
at their height covered almost all of the Andean region, from
Colombia to Chile, until they were defeated in the Spanish conquest
of 1532..

But a leading scholar of South American antiquity believes the
Inca did have a form of non-verbal communication written in an
encoded language similar to the binary code of today's computers.
Gary Urton, professor of anthropology at Harvard University,
has re-analysed the complicated knotted strings of the Inca -
decorative objects called khipu - and found they contain a seven-bit
binary code capable of conveying more than 1,500 separate units
of information.

In the search for definitive proof of his discovery, which will
be detailed in a book, Professor Urton believes he is close to
finding the "Rosetta stone" of South America, a khipu story that
was translated into Spanish more than 400 years ago.

"We need something like a Rosetta khipu and I'm optimistic that
we will find one," said Professor Urton, referring to the basalt
slab found at Rosetta, near Alexandria in Egypt, which allowed
scholars to decipher a text written in Egyptian hieroglyphics
from its demotic and Greek translations.

It has long been acknowledged that the khipu of the Inca were
more than just decorative. In the 1920s, historians demonstrated
that the knots on the strings of some khipu were arranged in
such a way that they were a store of calculations, a textile
version of an abacus.

Khipu can be immensely elaborate, composed of a main or primary
cord to which are attached several pendant strings. Each pendant
can have secondary or subsidiary strings which may in turn carry
further subsidiary or tertiary strings, arranged like the branches
of a tree. Khipu can be made of cotton or wool, cross-weaved
or spun into strings. Different knots tied at various points
along the strings give the khipu their distinctive appearance.


Professor Urton's study found there are, theoretically, seven
points in the making of a khipu where the maker could make a
simple choice between two possibilities, a seven-bit binary code.
For instance, he or she could choose between weaving a string
made of cotton or of wool, or they could weave in a "spin" or
"ply" direction, or hang the pendant from the front of the primary
string or from the back. In a strict seven-bit code this would
give 128 permutations (two to the power of seven) but Professor
Urton said because there were 24 possible colours that could
be used in khipu construction, the actual permutations are 1,536
(or two to the power of six, multiplied by 24).

This could mean the code used by the makers allowed them to convey
some 1,536 separate units of information, comparable to the estimated
1,000 to 1,500 Sumerian cuneiform signs, and double the number
of signs in the hieroglyphs of the ancient Egyptians and the
Maya of Central America.

If Professor Urton is right, it means the Inca not only invented
a form of binary code more than 500 years before the invention
of the computer, but they used it as part of the only three-dimensional
written language. "They could have used it to represent a lot
of information," he says. "Each element could have been a name,
an identity or an activity as part of telling a story or a myth.
It had considerable flexibility. I think a skilled khipu-keeper
would have recognised the language. They would have looked and
felt and used their store of knowledge in much the way we do
when reading words."

There is also some anecdotal evidence that khipu were more than
mere knots on a string used for storing calculations. The Spanish
recorded capturing one Inca native trying to conceal a khipu
which, he said, recorded everything done in his homeland "both
the good and the evil".

Unfortunately, in this as in many other encounters, the Spanish
burnt the khipu and punished the native for having it, a typical
response that did not engender an understanding of how the Inca
used their khipu.

But Professor Urton said he had discovered a collection of 32
khipu in a burial site in northern Peru with Incan mummies dating
from the time of the Spanish conquest. He hopes to find a khipu
that can be matched in some way with a document written in Spanish,
a khipu translation. He is working with documents from the same
period, indicating that the Spanish worked closely with at least
one khipu-keeper. "We have for the first time a set of khipu
from a well-preserved and dated archaeological site, and documents
that were being drawn up at the same time."

Without a "khipu Rosetta" it will be hard to convince the sceptics
who insist that, at most, the knotted strings may be complicated
mnemonic devices to help oral storytellers to remember their
lines. If they are simple memory machines, khipu would not constitute
a form of written language because they would have been understood
only by their makers, or someone trained to recall the same story.


Professor Urton has little sympathy with this idea. "It is just
not logical that they were making them for memory purposes,"
he said. "Tying a knot is simply a cue; it should have no information
content in itself other than being a reminder." Khipu had layers
of complexity that would be unnecessary if they were straightforward
mnemonic devices, he said.

Translating the secrets of the ages SUMERIAN CUNEIFORM The world's
first written language was created more than 5,000 years ago,
based on pictograms, or simplified drawings representing actual
objects or activities. The earliest cuneiform pictograms were
etched into wet clay in vertical columns and, later, more symbolic
signs were arranged in horizontal lines, much like modern writing.
Cuneiform was adapted by several civilisations, such as the Akkadians,
Babylonians and Assyrians, to write their own languages, and
used for 3,000 years. Many of the clay tablets, and the occasional
reed stylus used to etch cuneiform on them, have survived. Knowledge
of cuneiform was lost until 1835 when a British Army officer,
Henry Rawlinson, found inscriptions on a cliff at Behistun in
Persia. They were identical texts written in three languages
- Old Persian, Babylonian and Elamite - which allowed Rawlinson
to make the first translation for many hundreds of years.

EGYPTIAN HIEROGLYPHICS The original hieroglyphs, dating from
about 5,000 years ago, were etched on stone and were elaborate
and time-consuming to make, which meant they were reserved for
buildings and royal tombs. A simplified version, called hieratic,
was eventually developed for everyday bureaucracy, written on
papyrus paper.

Later still, hieratic was replaced by demotic writing, the everyday
language of Egypt, which appeared on the Rosetta stone with Greek
and hieroglyphic script, allowing scholars to translate the original
Egyptian writing.

MAYAN HIEROGLYPHICS The Maya used about 800 individual signs
or glyphs, paired in columns that read from left to right and
top to bottom. The glyphs could be combined to form any word
or concept in the Mayan language and inscriptions were carved
in stone and wood on monuments or painted on paper, walls or
pottery. Some glyphs were also painted as codices made of deer
hide or bleached fig-tree paper covered by a thin layer of plaster
and folded like an accordion. The complete deciphering of the
Mayan writing is only 85 per cent complete, although it has been
made easier with the help of computers.

Only highly trained Mayan scribes used and understood the glyphs,
and they jealously guarded their knowledge in the belief that
only they should act as intermediates between the gods and the
common people.    2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

January 2022
December 2021
November 2021
October 2021
September 2021
August 2021
July 2021
June 2021
May 2021
April 2021
March 2021
February 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
May 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
December 1998
November 1998
September 1998
August 1998
July 1998
June 1998
May 1998

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



LIST.UVM.EDU

CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager