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Quipu Knots
Global Art

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Quipu Knots, Inca, Peru

Young artists design a quipu with knots and strings to wear as a necklace, belt or to display, perhaps even coming up with a way to keep track of something that needs to be counted!

Did you know? The ancient Inca designed a system of counting and record keeping with brightly colored strings that had strategically placed knots called quipus attached to a base cord. The strings were different colors, lengths and thicknesses. No two quipus were alike. These highly complex counting systems were read by the quipu camayocs ("keepers of the quipus"). The ancient art of quipu is still practiced today in the Andean mountains of Peru, but most of the ability to read the strings has been lost.


piece of heavy cord or twine, about 24" (42 cm) long
chair strings in varying lengths, from 6"–24" (15–42 cm)
masking tape

quipu knots


1. Tie a heavy piece of cord, 24" long or so, from one side of a chair to the other. Tie each loose end so that the middle of the cord stretches across in front of the artist. (See illustration.)
2. Take a piece of string and tie it to the main cord with a knot. Tie other knots in this string. There are many explorations of tying that might be fun to try, such as
- tie big knots and small knots
- tie knots up and down the string
- loop and double the strings over the main cord
- tie little pieces of string to the longer strings
3. Add more strings and more knots, eventually filling the main cord.
4. Wear or display the quipu.


Select a string for each person in the family. Then tie one knot for each year that person has been alive—how many birthdays each person has had. For example, Mom’s string might have 30 knots, Dad’s 32 knots, Younger Sister 3 knots and Older Brother 10 knots. Have a string for pets, too! As the years go by, tie a new knot for each person as part of the birthday celebration.

copyright © 2005 MaryAnn Kohl
This art activity is copyright protected.

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