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Published: 27 August 2016

By Andy Ross

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Accounting for work in an Andean village

You may know about the way the Incas counted, using string and knots to keep records. But here is a fascinating paper about the use of colour and stripes to do the same thing. 

The paper, presented on the website academia.edu, was published this month in the Journal of Material Culture and gives an account of how an Andean community used colour and banding in their Khipus to keep records, much as the Inca did, right up until the 1940's. Photographs clearly illustrate the paper which is full of interesting information about the value of work and how this value was recorded. It even records the allocation of a value to the twist of a cord; Z or S, one being of lesser worth than the other and therefore an identifier of a woman's work, or the work of a very young or old member of the household. Absolutely fascinating stuff...