Ayacucho Khipu Board

I am blessed with a more or less photographic memory, not of text, but of images.  It came in handy last year when I stumbled upon an academia.edu status update by Sabine Hyland about her research on an Ancash colonial Khipu board.   I took some photos of the colonial items and in the background was a khipu board.  A “khipu” was a record-keeping system based on knots and strings used by most notably the Inka.  However, it was also used in the colonial and republican times but with less complexity. It immediately jogged my memory of a photo I took of the Instituto Nacional de Cultura storage room in Ayacucho.

I communicated the existence of this board to Sabine Hyland, and she was very excited.  Anyone interested in these fascinating artifacts should go to her webpage: http://home.snc.edu/sabinehyland/ayacucho-khipu-board/  I took some additional photos and am glad that Dr. Hyland will be doing research on this board, for it is in need of conservation and proper study.

The khipu boards were used in the colonial and republican times to keep attendance at Mass and feast days (Hyland, pers. communication May 2011).

There is a nice 18th century image done by Baltasar Jaime Martínez Compañón y Bujanda showing a khipu board in action:

Padrón sabatino de viudas indígenas



Dogs of Guaman Poma

Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, also simply known as Guaman Poma (Quechua for Falcon Mountain Lion), was a mestizo chronicler in the 16th and early 17th centuries.  He’s known primarily for his rich ethnohistorical and ethnographic drawings of the Andean world. Much of his personal life is still somewhat a mystery, and I recommend the Royal Library of Denmark’s introduction.

Dissatisfied and disillusioned with the injustices he saw, he decided to circumvent local corruption by appealing directly to the King.  He had heard the King liked pictures, so Guaman Poma wrote a 1000+ page letter to the King appealing for reform.  The letter never arrived.  Luckily, it was rediscovered in 1908.

What I love most about his work is his attention to detail.  He didn’t have to draw extra birds, flowers, and other miscellaneous animals, but he did.  What’s even more wonderful is that he gave names to almost everything: the mountains, the sacred places on the landscape, the birds, and his dogs.  I found 7 pictures that included dogs.  Due to copyright restrictions, I can’t reproduce them directly, but here they are:

1. The first is of a powerful woman from the  Collasuyo region with what appears like an Andean hairless dog. Click here to go to the image.

2. The second is of an old man and his stout dog. Click here to go to the image.

3. The third is of a crawling baby with a bushy-tailed dog. Click here to go to the image.

4. The fourth is of a girl spinning with her faithful dog to tow.  Click here to go to the image.

5. My favorite one, with the author, Guaman Poma, and his son Francisco and their two dogs “amigo” and “lautaro” trekking through the mountains in the snow. Click here to go to the image.

6. A busy bushy-tailed dog helping out with the scarecrow duties.  Click here to go to the image.

7.  A collared dog helping out with the harvest. Click here to go to the image.

It’s interesting to see that some dogs have collars and others don’t.  I wonder if the practice was introduced from the old world.  It’s pretty obvious from these pictures that Guaman Poma knew dogs intimately; their postures and poses are full of doggy personality.