What was the meaning, for Inca record keepers, of the knotted cord constructions they produced as administrative records for the Inca state? In particular, how did these administrators think about the knot constructions that (as we now understand) were used to sign numerical values? And what were the consequences for record keeping in the colonial Andes of the encounter between native cord keepers and the Spanish record keepers, with their numeral signs inscribed on parchment or paper? These are the questions that I explore in this paper. While we do not have explicit, first-hand testimony concerning the first two questions, there is a wealth of evidence relating to the interaction between native and European record keepers from the early years of the colony. The paper examines various contexts in which the cord keepers, who continued producing knotted-cord records long after the conquest, would have encountered written numerals and the implications of these encounters for questions of authority and legitimacy in the production of administrative records in the colonial Andes.Anthropolog
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