Quipu: The Alternative Language
Writing is a method of saving and transferring information in the form of symbols and numbers. When I first started singing my ABC's I had no idea what was the use of it. I knew that it was what the slightly older kids were doing in the school, singing songs and playing. So my eagerness to go to this "cool playing place" made me exhibit my ability to sing along. Sigh! Little did I know!
When I finally understood the purpose of alphabets, it amazed me that everything we say can be spelled out with those few letters. At first, I was a bit skeptical I decided to find the missing alphabets. Well! At least I tried ... I and my siblings, would sit and make gibberish noises and then try to spell those sounds. Every attempt was followed by giggles; it was a fun activity for us! Being bilingual, we had to try the same for the script of Hindi. However, I did not try this activity when I learned the script of Punjabi in fifth grade I assumed, as it was quite like Hindi, it will yield the same result.
As I grew a little bit older and had learned two lingual scripts, Hindi and English, I got obsessed with making my own language. Soon I realized it was a lot of work for a child, I had to put it aside and wait to grow up. Now that I am grown up, I am a bit busy with my project of world domination. Maybe after that, I would get on the pending job of coming up with my own language. So back in childhood, for the time being, for the purpose of having a secret language, I decided to assign numbers to alphabets and alphabets to numbers. In a way, I and my siblings had a coded secret language to leave messages for each other. Back then, we thought it was awesome! Of course, I wouldn't recommend it for some serious work as it was pretty easy to decipher.
When early human came up with scripts they had parallel symbols to represent objects and number. Those contrasting symbols evolved into alphabets and numbers respectively.They started with drawing objects that later turned into symbols via shorthand to save time. The purpose of writing was record keeping for the objects. The ancient people would draw the symbol of sheep and mark how many of those they have. It was a partial script they could not write plays and poetry with that. Language evolved out of that mode of record keeping. However, that was not the only mode of record keeping.
In the pre-Columbian Andes, they only used a partial script throughout their history. It was not suitable for writing stories; regardless those people were unfazed by its limitation. This partial script was very different from the written language. It was a method of saving information by knots on colourful chords. Those chords were called Quipus. They were made out of cotton or wool. Each quipu contained many chords and each chord contained knots at different places. There were variations in types of knots, colours, and locations of knots.
Under Inka Empire, the Quipus kept the record of all the data of the empire. It was a pretty sophisticated system. It was so accurate that after the Spanish conquest of Inka Empire the Spaniards kept on using this system. However, Spaniards did not know how to read and record the quipu. They depended on the locals for the record keeping. So for the security of the new empire, they slowly eliminated the quipus and used written language. Thus, eventually the art of quipu died and the recording and deciphering died. Find more information on Quipu here.
Written Language is too intuitive for us that saving information in the form of symbols seems to be the only option. It is quite efficient too and works wonderfully. We code the same information in binary and make it more efficient to transfer. However, thinking that there could have been some other form of keeping manuscripts and records is entrancing.
It is fascinating to me that there were alternatives to writing! Can you think of any cool ways we could be had to communicate information like the ancient Inka did with knots? If so, let me know.
Feel free to contribute your thought and opinions in the comment section
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