Wari Khipus

Who were the Wari and how to identify khipus from that time period

MALI, Museo de Arte de Lima

Khipu, UNMSM Colección Radicati de Quipus, Fundación Temple Radicati - UNMSM (800/900)MALI, Museo de Arte de Lima

The Wari forged South America’s first empire, which encom­passed most of present-day Peru. Their empire endured from 600 to 1000 AD, a period of time also referred to as the Middle Horizon.

Khipu, UNMSM Colección Radicati de Quipus, Fundación Temple Radicati - UNMSM (800/900)MALI, Museo de Arte de Lima

In their most basic form, Wari khipus consist of a main or primary cord with pendant (secondary) cords attached to the main cord with cow-hitch knots.    

Pendant cords can have subsidiary cords, and subsidiary cords can have subsidiaries of their own and so forth, all attached with cow hitches. It is possible that the Wari developed khipus and the colorful wrapping patterns that define them from their knowledge of colored stripes and bands as well as their wrapping practices.   

Thus, khipus possibly represent the merger of earlier multi-colored wrapping practices, which had emblematic significance, with knotting, that metaphorically represented the act of binding or commitment.   

The resulting device functioned for all intents and purposes like a writing system whose effectiveness is made clear by the fact that khipu were continued to be used by the Incas and their descendants to the present, in spite of the introduction of writing and numbers.  

Loop-and-branch type khipu found at El Castillo, Huarmey Loop-and-branch type khipu found at El Castillo, Huarmey by Wari CultureMALI, Museo de Arte de Lima

Wari khipus come in at least in three styles: Loop-and-Branch, Pendant, and Wrapped Pendant.

Loop-and-branch type khipu found at El Castillo, Huarmey Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú. Ministerio de Cultura del Perú (600/1000)MALI, Museo de Arte de Lima

In loop-and-branch khipus, pendants are attached directly to a loop that is made of a separate cord that is thicker than the main cord.    

Color in Wari Khipus

Wari khipus are the most colorful of all the khipu traditions. The majority of Wari khipu cords and wrapping yarns are cotton, natural and dyed, although dyed camelid hair was added when certain colors or sheen was required. 

Loop-and-branch type khipu found at El Castillo, Huarmey Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú. Ministerio de Cultura del Perú (600/1000)MALI, Museo de Arte de Lima

The majority of pendant cords are natural or white cotton, and most subsidiary cords are colored using both natural and/or dyed fiber. Color appears at all levels of khipu construction. 

Loop-and-branch type khipu found at El Castillo, Huarmey Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú. Ministerio de Cultura del Perú (600/1000)MALI, Museo de Arte de Lima

Wari khipus typically incorporate approx. four to six basic hues plus their tints or shades.  

Credits: Story

[Jeffrey Splitstoser] 

Credits: All media
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