Gary Urton

GaryUrtonGary Urton is Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Pre-Columbian Studies and Chairman of the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University.  His research focuses on a variety of topics in pre-Columbian and early colonial Andean intellectual history, drawing on materials and methods in archaeology, ethnohistory, and ethnology. He is the author of many articles and author/editor of several volumes on Andean/Quechua cultures and Inka civilization. His books include: At the Crossroads of the Earth and the Sky (1981), The History of a Myth (1990), The Social Life of Numbers (1997), Inca Myths (1999), and Signs of the Inka Khipu (2003). A MacArthur Fellow (2001-2005), Urton is the Founder/ Director of the Harvard Khipu Database Project.

Talk Title: Khipus & Knowledge: Knotted Cord Records in Pre-Columbian Andean Intellectual History

Abstract: Khipu (Quechua: “knot”) were the colorful knotted-cord devices made of camelid or cotton fibers that were used for record keeping in Andean societies from the time of the Wari (600-1000 A.D.) through the time of the Inka Empire, which came to an end with the Spanish conquest, in 1532.  This talk examines changing methods of cord production and use from Wari through Inka times and considers the intellectual history of the traditions of knowledge and signification that underlay the encoding of meaning by Andean artists and administrators in these remarkable, three-dimensional records.

Gary’s talk is part of the LACMA plenary session Ancient Knowledge/Indigenous Voices.