Meaningful materials in the khipu code

The project

Starting in 2020, Meaningful Materials in the Khipu Code is pan-European, multi-project research aiming to expand our understanding of khipu technology.

Stemming from Lucrezia Milillo’s PhD project at the University of St Andrews, it now includes two IPERION-HS projects led respectively by Lucrezia Milillo and Marei Hacke. We collaborate with IPERION-HS laboratories, independent laboratories and with six European museums.

In this blog, you can find the latest updates regarding this ongoing research project.

Cover photo by Beatrice Törnros | Världskulturmuseerna

The team

Lucrezia Milillo is a PhD student and Wolfson scholar at the University of St Andrews in the Social Anthropology department. She works on khipu technology with an interest in how meaning is produced in the making and in how Andeans used materials to convey meaning. She is the group leader of the first IPERION-HS project.

Marei Hacke is a conservation scientist at the Swedish National Heritage Board. Her areas of expertise include scientific investigations of cultural heritage and conservation methods with a focus on organic materials (textiles, paper, plastics, mordants and dyes) as well as the strategic development of heritage science in Sweden. She is the group leader of the second IPERION-HS project.

Sabine Hyland is an anthropologist and ethnohistorian of the Andes and a world-leading expert on khipu studies. Her research focuses on understanding indigenous South American systems of inscription, including both khipus and Andean pictographic script. Currently, she is a professor of World Religions at the University of St Andrews.

Sara Norrehed is a conservator scientist at the Swedish National Heritage board. Her background is in organic chemistry, which she also combines with her mastering of photographic technique. Her main focuses are organic materials, material emissions and chemical safety in museums.

Latest Posts

Conferences and dissemination

October 2022: such an eventful month, especially from a research dissemination point of view! This will be a very short blog post just to add to these records my participation in two conferences so the readers have a repository to access the first dissemination events of this research The first conference I presented in is…

Spectroscopies at E-RIHS lab in Ljubljana

The last laboratory I visited as part of the “Meaningful Materials in the khipu code” project was the Heritage Macromolecular Laboratory: a joint laboratory between the Institute for the Protection for Cultural Heritage of Slovenia (IPCHS) and the University of Ljubljana. Accessed through IPERION-HS funding, this laboratory is also among the foundational pillars of E-RIHS.…

As Straight as a dye

Chromatographic analyses in Pisa A huge section of this project is dedicated to the understanding of dyes in Andean khipus. We know that colour played an essential role in conveying qualitative information in the khipu semiotics. “The problem is that we don’t know ‘how’” you might have imagined. Yes. But there’s more. The huge problem…

Andean khipus Dating INFN

Today, there is an extreme scarcity of knowledge regarding not only “where” khipus are from, but also “when”. We lack the archaeological context of most of them and of 12 hundred khipus recorded so far, only forty-ish have been radiocarbon-dated. C-14 dating is not self-sufficient in providing answers to khipus’ temporal origin given the very…


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