Jeffrey Splitstoser, Pre-Columbian Society of the University of Pennsylvania Museum

“Twisted Records: Wari-style Khipus and What We Might Know about Them

Jeffrey Splitstoser, PhD, The George Washington University

April 8, 1:30 PM


The Wari created the first South American empire, ca. 600–1000 CE, and they ran it with an incredible invention: the khipu. Wari khipus are devices made of wrapped and knotted cords that were used to store and record information we presume was vital to administer their state. Like their later, more famous, Inka counterparts, Wari-style khipus likely carried and conveyed information using color and knots. Wari khipus differ from Inka khipus, however, in many respects including their use of colorful wrapping. This presentation will provide an overview of preliminary findings from a study of all-known Wari-style khipus.

Dr. Jeffrey C. Splitstoser is an Assistant Research Professor of Anthropology at George Washington University. His current field research is a study of the textiles and khipus at the Wari site of El Castillo de Huarmey (see the June 2014 issue of National Geographic Magazine). Splitstoser was the textile specialist for the Huaca Prieta Archaeological Project, directed by Dr. Tom Dillehay, where he studied 6,200 year old cotton textiles that are colored with the world’s earliest known use of indigo. Splitstoser is the Vice President of the Boundary End Archaeology Research Center and the editor (with Dr. David Stuart) of its peer-reviewed journals, Ancient America and the Research Reports on Ancient Maya Writing. He is a research associate of the Institute of Andean Studies, Berkeley, and a Cosmos Club scholar. Splitstoser was a Junior Fellow at the Dumbarton Oaks in 2005 – 2006. He received his Master’s degree (1999) and Ph.D. (2009) in anthropology from The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. His dissertation is a study of the Early Paracas textiles from Cerrillos in the Ica Valley of Peru.

Room 345
Univ. of Pennsylvania Museum
3260 South Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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