Khipu Legend

Let's first start with a look at a typical Khipu web-page view. It's pretty self-explanatory, except for the terms Benford Match, K-Means, and Hierarchical Clustering. If these terms are unfamiliar to you, you may wish to review the Analyses page.



Cords consist of knots, and subsidiary cord clusters. A primary cord contains cords and cord clusters, who contain cords who contain.... And so it goes..

Here's an overview of cords in "wide" format. It shows cord attachments, cord twist, cord values, cord identifiers, etc.

Knot Legend

Cord Attachments and Twists

Cords are attached to the primary cord in one of four fashions

Recto Cord Attachment (like a straight rectangle) with an S Twist
Verso Cord Attachment (like a V) with an S Twist
Up cord Attachment with an S Twist
Unknown Attachment Type with an unknown Twist

Additionally, as noted above, cords can have one of two types of twists (S/Z) rendered as a slash over the cord attachment...

Cord Colors

Cords have colors. But not just any color... They can be of the following forms:

Solid Color Cord
Barberpole Cord
Mottled Cord
Striped Cord
Dahlberg Cord
Missing Pendant Cord
Missing Primary Cord

These are known as Ascher Cord Colors. A cord can be made up of one or more sections described by their Ascher cord colors.


The Harvard Khipu Database has support for several types of knots and knot directions. Here is a knot legend of how I draw knots:

Knot Legend

The full Khipu

Right. It's probably about time we display a Khipu. Let's start with UR166 - Locke's canonical khipu that started it all.


And one of my favorite khipus because it's so pretty - UR233.  This time in wide format (showing why it's advantageous to have a tall format!)


Here is the original khipu, courtesy of the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin Germany: