Lucrezia Milillo’s doctoral research aims to further our understanding of Andean khipus – colourful knotted cords used as writing in the Andes for fourteen centuries: before, during and after the Inka empire.
Using the practice theory framework to combine ethnographic fieldwork (Autumn 2022) with the study of khipus in museum collections, Lucrezia’s research will provide new insights into the significance of colour and materials used in the production of Andean khipus.

Her supervisors are Dr Aimée Joice – expert anthropologist of material culture, history and trauma; and Professor Sabine Hyland – anthropologist and ethnohistorian, world-leading scholar in khipu studies.

In 2021-2022 Lucrezia was the Group Leader of a research project funded by IPERION-HS – a pan-European infrastructure for heritage science. The project is called “Meaningful materials in the khipu code: a multi-modal analysis” for which she coordinated the collaboration of six European museums and four European laboratories. In this way, she could lead the first physical and chemical analysis of eight khipus. The research team also included Dr Marei Hacke – a conservator scientist specialized in textile analysis with experience in the study of Andean textiles at the Heritage Laboratory of Visby, Sweden – and Professor Sabine Hyland – a worldwide leading khipu scholar in the Divinity department at the University of St Andrews-.

  • Lucrezia Milillo studying a khipu. The khipu is laying on a flat surface and she is approaching it with tweezers and magnifying glass. She is wearing a mask
  • Lucrezia studying a khipu with a USB microscope

Lucrezia holds an undergraduate degree in Cultural Anthropology (2017) and a two-year master’s degree in History and Anthropology at the University of Bologna (cum laude, 2019). Here, she studied the collection, provenance and morphology of Andean khipus in Italian collections.

  • Lucrezia is standing up, holding a tape measurer and wearing cotton white gloves. She is measuring the length of a khipu cord, while the khipu is displayed on an almost vertical support
  • Lucrezia holding a khipu cord with cotton gloves. The khipu is laying on a flat surface.
  • Lucrezia measuring a khipu