For Immediate Release

Visible Language Series Lecture: To Write or Knot? Another Route to Record Keeping in the Ancient Americas

(Cambridge, January 10, 2011) The Inca quipu or khipu (“knot”) is one of the most unusual systems of record keeping devised by any society of the ancient world. These bundles of brightly colored, knotted cords were said by the Spaniards, who conquered the Inca Empire in the early 16th century, to have been used to record both numerical/quantitative information and narratives of the past (histories, poems, songs, and more).

The Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology presents the illustrated talk, "To Write or Knot? Another Route to Record Keeping in the Ancient Americas" on Thursday, February 10, 2011 at Harvard's Geological Lecture Hall (24 Oxford St.). The talk will explore the recording principles that supported quipu record-keeping both for state administration and for the performance of historical narratives. It is part of the Peabody Museum's year-long Visible Language lecture series. A public reception will follow at the Peabody Museum.

The speaker is Gary Urton, Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University.

About the Peabody Museum
The Peabody Museum is among the oldest archaeological and ethnographic museums in the world with one of the finest collections of human cultural history found anywhere. It is home to superb materials from Africa, ancient Europe, North America, Mesoamerica, Oceania, and South America in particular. In addition to its archaeological and ethnographic holdings, the Museum’s photographic archives, one of the largest of its kind, hold more than 500,000 historical photographs, dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the present and chronicling anthropology, archaeology, and world culture.

Hours and location: 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., seven days a week. The Museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. The Peabody Museum is located at 11 Divinity Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Museum is a short walk from the Harvard Square MBTA station. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, $6 for children, 3–18. Free with Harvard ID or Museum membership. The Museum is free to Massachusetts residents Sundays, 9 A.M. to noon, year round, and Wednesdays from 3 P.M. to 5 P.M. (September to May). Admission includes admission to the Harvard Museum of Natural History. For more information call 617-496-1027 or go online to:

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Media Contact:

Faith Sutter
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Peabody Museum
Tel: 617-495-3397

Quipu, Peru. PM 42-2/-301/4532

High resolution image available on request.

Thursday, February 10: "To Write or Knot? Another Route to Record Keeping in the Ancient Americas"

5:30 PM Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford St., Cambridge, followed by a public reception at the Peabody Museum, 11 Divinity Ave., Cambridge

Information: 617-496-1027 or

See more about the Visible Language series.