Wednesday, September 09, 2009


I just finished reading 1491. Holy cow. If you are at all interested in history, or the interaction of cultures, or human effects on the natural world, you should read this book. It starts off pretty dry, but stick with it. About a third through it hits pure gold (pun intended).

In short, the true story is a world apart from the image we were taught in school. In both North and South America, the populations were denser than previously thought, and built extravagant architectural systems. They had a much more comprehensive agricultural impact than I would have imagined, too. I don't want to give too much away, but the lasting effects of those Amazon farmers are pretty impressive.

And tucked back in Appendix B, I found something that made my Fiber Artist soul sing: The Inkas (Incas) left behind knotted strings called khipu. For a long time they were considered a sort of abacus, but second look has revealed them to be a form of written record! They used fiber (cotton or alpaca), color coding, and different types of S and Z plying to transmit data. William Conklin says "90 percent of the information was put into the string before the knot was made." Then there's the knot itself, tied going either up or down the string, and the type of knot... wow. They are still working on the translations. I think it's going to take a while. :)

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