What Is Quipu in World History?

Quipu is a fascinating invention from ancient civilizations that has left a lasting impact on world history. A quipu is a system of knots tied on cords that was used by the Incas and other Andean cultures to record information. These knots were arranged in different patterns and colors to represent numbers, dates, and even narratives.

The Origin of Quipu

The origin of quipu can be traced back to the Andean region of South America, where it was used by different cultures for various purposes. The earliest evidence of quipu comes from the Caral-Supe civilization, which flourished around 2600 BCE. However, it was the Incas who made extensive use of quipu as a tool for recording administrative information.

The Functionality of Quipu

Quipus were made up of cords made from cotton or animal fibers. The cords were attached to a longer cord known as the primary cord.

The primary cord would have several smaller cords hanging from it, each containing its own set of knots. The number and position of the knots would determine what information was being recorded.

For example, if one knot was tied in a certain position on a cord, it could represent the number one. Two knots in the same position could represent two, and so on. Different colors could also be used to represent different categories or types of information.

The Usefulness of Quipu

Quipus were used primarily for administrative purposes such as recording census data or keeping track of goods and services exchanged among communities. They were also used for storytelling and communicating history through narratives represented by knots.

The use of quipus allowed for complex information to be recorded in a portable and durable format that could be easily transported across long distances. This was particularly important in an empire like the Incas’, which spanned thousands of miles and had a complex system of administration.

The Legacy of Quipu

The use of quipus declined after the Spanish conquest of South America in the 16th century. With the introduction of paper and writing, quipus were gradually replaced by written records. However, their legacy has endured in various forms.

Today, quipus are still studied by historians and anthropologists as a unique system of record-keeping that offers insights into the lives and cultures of ancient civilizations. They have also inspired modern artists to create works that explore the beauty and complexity of this ancient tool.


In conclusion, quipu is an important invention from world history that represents the ingenuity and creativity of ancient civilizations. Its impact can still be felt today in various ways, from its use in modern art to its study by scholars seeking to understand the past. As such, it serves as a reminder that even seemingly simple tools can have profound effects on our world.