The Khipu-Board of Mangas

A physical connection between words and khipus used during the Republican period in an Andean community

MALI, Museo de Arte de Lima

The Attendance Board

This nineteenth-century wooden board from San Cristóbal de Mangas, in Ancash, contains a list or padrón of residents who attended the community’s church. 

The Khipu-Board of Mangas (1800/1900) by AnonymousMALI, Museo de Arte de Lima

Similar to the padrones depicted in the watercolor paintings of the Bishop of Trujillo, Baltazar Martínez de Compañon, it has holes next to each name listed, through which twisted and knotted cords still run.    

From Word to Cord

Each cord may have been used to indicate some type of obligation on the part of each resident, mainly associated with communal activities organized around the local church, such as food they were supposed to bring to celebrations or tasks they were supposed to perform. 

The Khipu-board, which combined a writing system and the tradition of knotted cords, is just one example of the different ways in which khipus remained relevant to Andean communities.  

Knot direction = Moiety membership

The anthropologist Sabine Hyland has identified a possible relationship between the direction of the knots in the khipus and membership to a given moiety in the Andean social system that divides communities into two sectors, Hanan and Hurin. 

On studying the khipu-board of Mangas, for example, one of the few of its kind known to exist, Hyland identified this relationship, reflected in the fifteen surnames of residents recorded on the board.  

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