With the civilization of the Incas now long gone, scientists are still working hard to crack the code that they left behind in the form of mysterious string devices that are known as khipus. However, after nearly a century of work, researchers have still not figured out how to read these knotted strings.
With more than 1,000 khipus in existence today, these devices are extremely complex and discovering their different meanings has proven a challenging task due to the wide variety of the devices that have been discovered, according to ScienceAlert.
The Incas who created these knotted strings were known as khipukamayuqs, and the materials used to build these coded devices were cotton and camelid fleece which could be found in abundance locally. Instead of writing, Incas used these devices so that they could record and encode important administrative data for things like taxes and local census reports.
With some of the khipus using 10 knots in them, researchers have determined that these devices would have been used for accounting purposes. Yet these special accounting khipus only make up roughly two-thirds of the string devices that have been recovered so far, with the remaining one-third used for narrative purposes.
It is these narrative knotted strings that continue to confound researchers. Hidden in these devices are mystery philosophies, ancient stories and names, and scientists would love to know what the Incas recorded on them.
While some researchers have suggested that the knots on the narrative devices may have been created with a special code of numbers to be used as a qualitative identifier, others are of the opinion that syllabic language may also be represented by the knots.
It has also been suggested that the use of these khipus was a natural response to the Inca environment and to living in locations that were deep in the Andes, with chaskis, or messengers, traipsing in an oftentimes unstable territory. The knotted devices would have been perfect for carrying messages back and forth given the climate and would not have been destroyed in torrential rains.
The ancient Incas were also required to deal with taxes on numerous occasion each year, and many of the complex khipus that have been discovered are known to contain all of the personal details of each citizen that would have been paying these taxes.
While these 3D knotted devices known as khipus might have been easily understood by the Incas, researchers are still working intently to try and crack the code behind these creative devices so that historians can learn more about the lives of those in this ancient society.