The Inca Empire’s Ancient Code Written In Strings

No one knows how to “read” them…

 

 

From Sapiens,

 

Unraveling an Ancient Code Written In Strings
Andean cultures developed a mysterious form of writing that has never been deciphered. Scientists are teaming with locals to solve the enigma.

by Sabine Hyland

 

“In July 2015, my husband and I were crammed into a stuffy minivan with 12 others, climbing out of Lima’s coastal mist into the sun-filled mountains thousands of feet above. After hours of dust clouds and dizzying hairpin turns, our destination appeared below—the remote Andean village of San Juan de Collata, Peru. It was a scattering of adobe houses with no running water, no sewage, and electricity for only a couple of homes. The several hundred inhabitants of this community speak a form of Spanish heavily influenced by their ancestors’ Quechua. Arriving at the village felt like entering into another world.

 

My husband and I spent our first few hours in Collata making formal presentations to the village officers, requesting permission to study two rare and precious objects that the community has guarded for centuries—bunches of twisted and colored cords known as khipus. After dinner, the man in charge of the community treasures, a middle-aged herder named Huber Brañes Mateo, brought over a colonial chest containing the khipus, along with goat-hide packets of 17th- and 18th-century manuscripts—the secret patrimony of the village. We had the tremendous honor of being the first outsiders ever allowed to see them.

 

Over the next couple days, we would learn that these multicolored khipus, each of which is just over 2 feet long, were narrative epistles created by local chiefs during a time of war in the 18th century. But that evening, exhausted yet elated, my husband Bill and I simply marveled at the colors of the delicate animal fibers—crimson, gold, indigo, green, cream, pink, and shades of brown from fawn to chocolate.

 

In the Inca Empire’s heyday, from 1400 to 1532, there would have been hundreds of thousands of khipus in use. Today there are about 800 held in museums, universities, and private collections around the world, but no one knows how to “read” them. Most are thought to record numerical accounts; accounting khipus can be identified by the knots tied into the cords, which are known to represent numbers, even if we don’t know what those numbers mean. According to Spanish chroniclers in the 16th century who saw khipus still being used, others record narrative information: histories, biographies, and communications between administrators in different towns….”

 

For the rest, click here.

 

 

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Stories from the Heyday of the Circus Sideshow

As fascinating as these stories are, one must wonder how these legendary performers were treated when they were off-stage…

 

Ringling Bros. “Congress of Freaks” circa 1924. Wikimedia Commons

 

From all-that-interesting.com,

 

The Sad Stories Of The Ringling Brothers’ “Freak Show” Acts
By Erin Kelly

From “The Four-Legged Girl” to “The Dog-Faced Boy,” here are some of the strangest behind-the-scenes “freak show” tales.

 

“On May 19, 1884, the Ringling Bros.’ Circus officially opened for business, capitalizing on the extreme and bizarre to earn profit. It worked: For many years, the most popular component of the circus was the “Freak Show.”

 

Though often thought of as exploitative, degrading, and cruel, most reports paint a picture of headlining “freaks” being both accepted and well-paid by the circus staff. In many cases, the performers not only out-earned everyone in the audience, but also their own promoters. Any mistreatment generally came from the public who did not look at the performers as people.

 

Sideshow acts were not always born different; sometimes they were “manufactured” to bring in money from the crowds.

 

Clyde Ingalls, manager of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey sideshow in the 1930s once said, “Aside from such unusual attractions as the famous three-legged man, and the Siamese twin combinations, freaks are what you make them. Take any peculiar looking person, whose familiarity to those around him makes for acceptance, play up that peculiarity and add a good spiel and you have a great attraction.”

 

As medicine began to explain the unexplainable, circus freak shows fell out of fashion. But while they thrived, countless legendary performers moved through their ranks. Here are some of their stories:…”

 

For the stories, click here.

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Your Life’s Plot Points: What’s your narrative?

As we embark on the new year, here’s a little piece on the narratives of our lives…

 

 

“So when people drop the cheesy pick-up line “What’s your story?” at a bar, like a man who nicks his carotid artery while shaving, they’ve accidentally hit upon something vital.”

 

From The Atlantic,

 

Life’s Stories
How you arrange the plot points of your life into a narrative can shape who you are—and is a fundamental part of being human.

by Julie Beck

 

“In Paul Murray’s novel Skippy Dies, there’s a point where the main character, Howard, has an existential crisis.“‘It’s just not how I expected my life would be,'” he says.

 

“‘What did you expect?’” a friend responds.

 

“Howard ponders this. ‘I suppose—this sounds stupid, but I suppose I thought there’d be more of a narrative arc.’”

 

But it’s not stupid at all. Though perhaps the facts of someone’s life, presented end to end, wouldn’t much resemble a narrative to the outside observer, the way people choose to tell the stories of their lives, to others and—crucially—to themselves, almost always does have a narrative arc. In telling the story of how you became who you are, and of who you’re on your way to becoming, the story itself becomes a part of who you are.

 

“Life stories do not simply reflect personality. They are personality, or more accurately, they are important parts of personality, along with other parts, like dispositional traits, goals, and values,” writes Dan McAdams, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, along with Erika Manczak, in a chapter for the APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology.

 

In the realm of narrative psychology, a person’s life story is not a Wikipedia biography of the facts and events of a life, but rather the way a person integrates those facts and events internally—picks them apart and weaves them back together to make meaning. This narrative becomes a form of identity, in which the things someone chooses to include in the story, and the way she tells it, can both reflect and shape who she is.  A life story doesn’t just say what happened, it says why it was important, what it means for who the person is, for who they’ll become, and for what happens next…”

 

For the rest, click here.

 

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