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Khipu are recording devices made from strings. The Inca people used them for collecting data and keeping records. Khipu (pronounced [ˈkʰɪpʊ]) is the word for “knot” in Cusco Quechua. Quipu is the Spanish spelling and the most common spelling in English. This page offers some resources for learning more about the Khipu system.

This document primarily offers a guide to scanning slide film of Khipu images. Additional information is offered for context and background which is helpful for understanding the suggested approach to slide scanning.

Khipu is described by MIT as follows: “The Inca Empire (1438–1533) had its own spoken language, Quechua, which is still spoken by about a third of the Peruvian population. It is believed that the only ‘written’ language of the Inca empire is a system of different knots tied in ropes attached to a longer cord.” [Source]

“Knotted strings unrelated to quipu have been used to record information by the ancient Chinese, Tibetans and Japanese.” [Source]

Scanning Preparation

Proper planning and preparation will ensure your process is efficient, organized, and optimized for the results you desire. This guide offers considerations for scanning a collection of Khipu slides.

This page is organized by topic headings roughly in the order that you would need to consider each step and task. Preparation topics come first. Then process guidelines and settings are explained.

Scanning Slide Film Khipu Images — Method Overview

This is the general method to scanning Khipu slide images with a focus on obtaining the highest quality images possible in TIFF file format.

  1. Scan — Scan the slides using the highest resolution practical. Preferably with an expensive professional scanner that can process a batch of 12 or more slides at once.
  2. Save — Save the images as the approach to scanning Khipu images is to obtain the highest quality image files possible in TIFF format.
  3. Convert — From the high quality images, use batch processing to create lower resolution images to be used in print, on the web, and with presentations.

Using this process you will end up with high resolution large image files useful for zooming in to accomplish detailed study.

You will also have a collection of lower resolution images suitable for standard print and presentation applications.

Equipment — Scanner

A professional scanner such as the EPSON V850 offers high quality batch scanning of 12 slides. This is important because at high resolution, a batch may require 20 to 30 minutes to complete. A longer time between batches makes it possible to accomplish other work while the scanning process completes. The setup process is done once for 12 slides rather than 12 times. This saves time.

Equipment — Dedicated Computer

It helps to have a dedicated powerful computer for scanning. By not having other tasks running, the computer can work quickly on processing the scanning. Other activities on the computer, or devices actively using USB ports, could interfere with the scanning process. Sometimes interference on one USB port, or activity on a port, or another program, can create glitches with the scanning process. Depending on the computer, multiple tasks may cause the computer to momentarily pause one task in favor of a perceived higher priority task, or give a task less processing power to a certain task.

It helps to have a secondary computer for image processing, organizing, editing, and file naming. This ensures the scanning process can continue running without disruption.

Equipment — Solid State Drive

Because one set of your files will be in high resolution uncompressed TIFF format, the file sizes will be about 250MB per slide. Your computer should have a solid state drive to speedily handle the creation, moving, and copying of these files.

It is helpful to have an external USB solid state drive as well for copying the files from the main scanning computer, to a processing computer where image editing will be done while the scanning process continues to run on the primary scanning computer.

Equipment — Another Solid State Drive

If you are sharing the slide images or giving them to someone, it will be important to give them the images on a solid state drive to ensure fast copying and viewing of the large image files. This drive is different than the working drive mentioned above.

Equipment — Supplies

It is helpful to have some supplies for cleaning and dusting the slides. Cans of pressurized air are okay if used carefully to avoid cold moisture being sprayed on the slide. An air compressor with a moisture suppressor would be more ideal.

Slide Collection Inventory and Order

Prior to doing any work, take a photo or scanned image of the slides in their protective binder sheets. This will provide an initial inventory of all slides and preserve their original order. It helps with correspondence relating to the collection.

You could put the slide protective binder pages on a light table and take a photo to have any handwritten notes along with the image to create a visual contact sheet. Or, you could use a slide scanner to have the back light aluminate the slides for a similar effect of having the contact sheet with clear images and frame border notes.

If the slides are in trays, take photos of the trays, then carefully on a large table, place the slides face up in the order they were in the tray to take a photo of each tray contents. This will preserve a record of the original slide order and initial inventory.

Slide Handling

Handle the slides carefully by the frame edge. Avoid touching the film since that can leave oil and fingerprints that deteriorates the film quality and clarity. Handle only the number of slides necessary at one time for the batch you are scanning. Keep the rest of the collection in protective sleeves or cases.

Slide Cleaning

For collections of slides that seem to have dust, here are some cleaning considerations.

  • If dust exists, a very soft clean microfiber cloth can help with cleaning.
  • Be careful not to use a microfiber cloth that might scratch the soft film surface. Such micro abrasions may show up as foggy distortions on the slides.
  • Be careful not to use any harsh cleaners or solvents.
  • Small brushes with a rubber bulb on one end to blow air may just move dust around.
  • Cans of high pressure air may work to remove dust, but be careful not to turn the can upside down because that can cause some of the coolant liquid to spray on the slide surface.

There tend to be two types of dust and debris on slides. Some particles are easily removed by a brief puff of air. Other debris may be stuck on the slide. A gentle wipe with a microfiber cloth will remove these. If stubborn particles seem to be stuck on the slide, it may be best to leave those and avoid scratching the slide with a rough cleaning.

Cleaning the slides after they are placed in the 12-slide tray clips tends to work well. Hold the slide tray in front of you, gently brush across the tray rows from top to bottom. The dust will generally fall as you clean leaving the top rows clean and so on. Some airborne dust may land on the slides again, so moving the tray horizontally as you clean can avoid that. Clean the back of the slide tray first and then the front of the slide tray. The front in this context is the side that faces down and holds the slides with their front toward the scanner glass.

Note that dust on the front of the slides will show up as specs or visible fibers on the resulting image file. Dust on the back of the slide may obscure the illumination of the slide slightly, but it is less of a problem than dust on the front of the slide. So, cleaning the front of the slide tray just prior to placing it on the scanner reduces the chances of airborne dust landing on the front scanner-facing side of the slides.

Despite thorough cleaning of the slides, after each batch of 12 slides are scanned, it is likely you will notice dust, fibers, and debris on the scanner bed. So, cleaning between batches is necessary.

Slides in plastic frames may have less dust compared to stiff paper frames because the plastic is smooth and tends to collect less dust.

Slide Orientation — Front/Back

Sometimes slides are incorrectly mounted with the indicated orientation reversed. So the slide frame side indicated as the front will actually be the back of the slide film. This isn’t common, but a person should be aware it can happen and you may need to confirm the orientation by looking for a slide with writing in the photo since the writing will be readable left to right when looking at the front of the slide and holding it up to a light.

Slide Orientation — Top/Bottom

By placing the slides in their proper vertical orientation for landscape and portrait orientation, image rotation later can be avoided. In the example offered below for batch placement, the slide would be face down with the top of the slide toward the hinge of the scanner.

Slide Placement — Face Down

To preserve the original orientation of the slide, always scan with the front facing down on a flatbed scanner.

Assuming the slides have been properly mounted, the “front” of the slide will likely have some written notations, or a number, to identify the particular slide. The front of the slide may be white in color and tends to have a more finished look. The back of the slide may be dark gray or have the clips visible that hold the mounting together. The back of the slide may say “This side toward screen” which refers to use in a projector system.

If you hold up the slide to a light, and if there is writing on the slide, the writing should be easily readable when coding the front of the slide facing you.

If you look through the back of the slide, the text will appear to have a flipped mirror image. This is similar to seeing the word “PULL” on a glass door when you are on the other side. You see the LLUP letters in reverse.

Slide Placement for Batch Processing

When placing the slides in the scanning tray, assuming you have a 12-slide tray and are using the EPSON V850 scanner, the slides will be face down as explained above.

The slides will be scanned and saved in order starting in the top right corner as slide 1. That right-side column of slides will be 1 through 4 (at the bottom). The middle column will be 5 through 8 from top to bottom. The left column will be 9 through 12.

It is helpful to use a label maker with numbers 1 through 12 to place small stickers of the numbers for each slide tray space. So you are reminded when placing the slides which order they are in.

If you place the slides in the correct order, then automatic file naming, and manual renaming, will be much easier.

Observe that the slide tray is helpful for general placement, alignment, slide protection, and identification during the preview and auto crop process. However, the slide tray allows for some slight misalignment of the slide frame. So, be careful that the slides are properly aligned and not slightly skewed.

Scanner Care and Protection

The scanner glass is similar to a camera lens in that it should be kept clean and free of any scratches or abrasions. The slide holder tray used to scan batches of slides has plastic feet. Repeated use of the tray could eventually result in marring of the scanner glass.

Soft paper, cloth, rubber, or felt feet may be helpful to prevent this. However, the tray needs to have a very precise elevation above the scanner glass to be properly in focus. As of March 2023, no work has been done for this report to offer a recommendation here regarding how to avoid scratches to the glass from the scanner tray.

Documentation — Process

It helps to document the process you are using with an explanation as to the rationale behind the process. The process can be evaluated and improved periodically. This web document is an example of documenting the process.

Work Log Record

It is important to have a system for documenting the scanning of larger collections. This is a good way to track processes and tasks. A spreadsheet is a good way to track slide description, image file name, scan settings, and steps completed. This ensures that no slides are missed or skipped in the process. If you need to step away from the project and return later, it will be clear what has been done and what step you were on. The spreadsheet can help keep others informed of progress and the process. If you are tracking your time, it is a way to document work done and the time required.

Scan Work Location — Where You Are Most

The scanning process is best setup where you spend the most time. It will take many hours to go through a larger collection of slides. Every 20 to 30 minutes, another slide tray needs to be prepared and placed on the scanner with a fresh preview process to identify slide placement and orientation. If this process can continue through the day, eventually it can get done with the least disruption.

Your public library may have a professional scanner available, but the time required to create high resolution scans of many slides may exceed the available time you can schedule at the library.

Working on scanning at home or a home office allows for other tasks to be completed during the 20 to 30 minutes wait times. A person can develop a rhythm for the work day that includes breaks for starting a new batch scan.

The work area should be clean and have limited foot traffic. One wants to eliminate the risk that the slides will get moved or handled. The work area should be free of dust, debris, pets, dander, or curious young people. A room without interruptions or distractions is ideal.

Sufficient space will be needed for the scanner, computers, and desk area to handle the slides when moving to and from their storage.

Scanner Software Settings

Scanning of slide film Khipu images requires some planning and consideration. Here are some suggested settings. These are based on using the EPSON V850 scanner and software.

  • Auto Adjustments — Scanner software offers some automatic adjustments. These tend to make nonreversible changes to the saved image file, so it is best not to use these features. Color adjustments as well as blur and sharpness or removal of debris should be done later manually from the original uncompressed TIFF file using a professional photo editing program.
  • Color Depth — Using the 48-bit color depth setting can produce smoother gradations of color when compared to the more common 24-bit color depth. This is well explained and illustrated on the Canadian website How to Scan in the article, “What’s The Difference Between Scanning 24 Bit vs. 48 Bit?” [View] Using this higher quality setting should not slow down the scanning process significantly.
  • File Format — Saving scanned images in the TIFF file format will produce image files that are better for editing and improvements later. The TIFF file format can accommodate the 48-bit color depth requirement. The file sizes will be bigger, but more useful. Plan on longer wait times if copying to an external drive. You’ll need more storage for the images. It’s possible to later convert the TIFF images in a batch to JPEG images for a complete set of your scans in a smaller file format useful for websites, presentations, or sending by email.
  • Resolution — Using the 6400dpi resolution setting can provide a sharp clear reproduction of a slide without the use of software interpolation for upscaling the image resolution. In the example used in this document, the EPSON V850 has 6400dpi optical resolution. In other words, a pure optical scan may be clearer and more precise than one that is modified by software. Also, an interpolation step could require extra software processing time, slowing down the scanning process.

After running the preview process, the Unsharp Mask setting may be checked arbitrarily. Remove that selection before starting the scan.

Scan Steps and Tasks

The individual steps and tasks required for each batch of 12 slides are listed here with time in minutes shown in parenthesis. This includes some buffer time between tasks.

  1. remove 12 slides from their binder or storage and place in tray (3m)
  2. remove dust from slides and scanner glass (2m)
  3. run preview step with scanner software to identify and crop each individual slide (2m)
  4. scan the batch of 12 slides (22m)
  5. copy image files to USB and copy to the computer used for editing, sizing, and organizing images (2m)
  6. create JPEG versions from the high quality TIFF image files (3m)
  7. copy images to cloud drive (2)
  8. return slides to binder (4)

The total is about 40 minutes for a batch of 12 slides if a person works quickly but carefully and is focused without any interruption.

It is possible to postpone the copying of image files to USB and run a larger batch conversion of the JPEG images, but completing each batch of 12 slides through the entire process from start to finish can help ensure accuracy.

Efficient Scan Workflow

The scan process described above in eight steps is useful if you have only 12 slides to scan. That is the process you will follow. For multiple batches of 12 slides, it makes sense to complete the hands-on tasks together and then begin the 22 minute scan process. This way you work for 20 minutes and then take a break for about 20 minutes.

These steps assume a scan of 12 slides has just been completed. If you’re just getting started, begin with step #5.

  1. copy image files (that were just scanned) to USB and copy to the computer used for editing, sizing, and organizing images (2m)
  2. create JPEG versions from the high quality TIFF image files (3m)
  3. copy images to cloud drive (2)
  4. return the scanned slides to the binder (4)
  5. remove 12 slides from the binder and place in tray (3m)
  6. remove dust from slides and scanner glass (2m)
  7. run preview step with scanner software to identify and crop each individual slide (2m)
  8. scan the batch of 12 slides (22m)

Following the above steps in the order shown will result in the least amount of hands-on labor for each batch.

Set a Timer

Using the settings described above, scanning a batch of slides will take about 22 minutes. If you set a countdown timer for 22 minutes, you can keep the process flowing efficiently. Note that each batch of 12 slides, from start to finish, may take 40 minutes total including all of the steps such as cleaning, file conversion, removing and replacing the slides from their storage unit while utilizing the scanning tray. The actual scan time is only one step of the process.

Image File Conversion to JPEG

Once the high resolution TIFF image files have been generated, you will want to batch process those files and convert them to relatively high resolution JPEG image files.

The settings for conversion could be 3840×2160 pixels at 90percent quality and 300dpi resolution output. This would reduce the files from about 250-300MB in size to 2.5-3.5MB in size with an acceptable image quality for most uses.

Note that the JPG compression image file format will be more efficient with simple images that have few tonal gradations and changes. A photo of a white wall will result in a smaller file size than a field of grass, trees with many leaves, or close details of fabric and fibers.

When saving in JPEG format, if a person reduces the quality, resolution, or dpi output, small details of fibers will become blurred because they are assumed to not be relevant. So, with Khipu images, it is important to use JPG settings that yield higher quality images.

File Copies as a Backup

Using a dedicated scanning computer and secondary computer for editing helps maintain an original set of scanned images on the scanning computer. This serves as a backup. If you don’t have two computers to work with, be sure to maintain a dedicated separate drive for keeping a backup.

Sharing Progress and Image Files

You will likely want to share the progress with a colleague, coworker, or client. This can be done using a cloud file sharing service such as Apple iCloud Drive, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive.

If desiring to preserve the originals and avoid possible moving, deleting, or altering of original files names, then share the cloud folder as read only.

If sharing for purposes of collaboration, to have someone working on file names or editing, then read and write access should be granted. Or, alternatively, have the person work from an external solid state drive. Using synchronized cloud folders will consume considerable hard drive space for anyone who is synchronizing.

You will need a significant amount of storage. This usually requires a paid subscription. Larger files will upload slowly to the cloud storage unless you have Internet with fast upload speeds. For example, if you have about 70 slides that are about 250MB to 300MB in size as TIFF files, that will use 20GB of storage.

File Naming

The initial file names will be something like “slide-001.TIF” and the full collection of original file names should be put in a spreadsheet. Those original files should probably be retained as a backup archive. It is possible to place a removable sticky note on each sheet of a binder, for example, to identify the start number for that sheet and have it correspond to the numbered image files.

Scanning software typically allows for automated file naming with incremental sequential numbering. This allows for each batch of 12 slides to be named with a sequential number. If you need to go back and scan a page again, or somehow the automatic numbering is off, at the time of saving you can adjust the starting number for the next sequence of saved files.

When the scanning is complete and reviewed, copy the original files and begin working with renaming them according to the preferred naming and notation system. Editing can be done at this point, knowing that the originals are safely backed up.

The file naming spreadsheet is helpful because it serves as an index to identify originals based on their new name. One column of the spreadsheet will have the original sequential file names. Another column will have the new file name. Additional information about the collection can be placed in that spreadsheet.

Slide Confirmation and Comparison

To compare the physical slides with the digital image files, you can look through the physical slide with the digital image displayed brightly on a screen as your light table. The slide should be illuminated and simultaneously line up precisely with the digital image. This helps assure that each digital image has been named, numbered, and ordered properly.

For general review of the collection, it’s helpful to view the slides while they are protected in the protective binder sheets. This can be done with a light table. A light table offers a bright, evenly diffused, white background light to view slides by holding them to this light source. As an alternative, you can use a large computer display with a large white image displayed. This image can be a PowerPoint slide that is all white, a blank word processing file, or an empty desktop with white background and no icons cluttering the desktop area. This can also be done with an iPad or laptop computer. You simply need a full-screen white image. A magnifying glass can help see greater detail.

Image Editing

For images where corrections and adjustments are needed, a photo editor can be used. Apple computers have a program called Photos that can make some common image adjustments such as exposure adjustments, cropping, erasing anomalies, and white balance. The white balance adjustment is made by using a dropper tool to click on something white in the photo. Any white objects or areas should now be pure white, and other colors will become more vibrant.

Additional Reading

Below is more Khipu information for context and better understanding.

Khipu Information Links

These resources provide more information to better understand Khipu.

  • Atlas Obscura — “Urton is now optimistic that the six khipus examined in the research could serve as a key to decode the hundreds of others he has in his database. The colors of the cords as they relate to first names could hint at the meanings of colors in other khipus, for example…. what’s most exciting to Urton and Medrano is the potential to better understand Inca history from the indigenous point of view.” Dated: 14 Dec 2017 by Katherine Davis-Young. [More]
  • Khipu Field Guide — “Containing 651 khipus, the Khipu Field Guide is the world’s largest digital database of Inka khipus, ready for analysis and viewing in schematic form.” Dated: 28 Jun 2021 [More]
  • KUODA — A non academic article providing an overview and introduction to Khipu. Title: “What You Need to Know about Inca Knot Writing: The Khipu, or Quipu.” Dated: 21 May 2021 by Molly Krifka. Excerpt: “the khipu system itself actually revolved around a highly concrete mathematical understanding of decimal positioning. This means that each string in the khipu (upwards of 1500 strings in the larger khipus) was created and read in reference to the principal string, thereby representing individual numbers or units altogether. The largest decimal in the khipu is 10,000! These are often referred to as quantitative khipus and were mainly used for tax registration and censuses within the Inca Empire. In addition to these khipus, however, archaeologists and linguists have deciphered and uncovered samples of narrative khipus. These qualitative khipus have proven much harder to crack; the numbered codes they contain could very well be references to people and places’ identity and even complex ideas, like philosophies and stories.” [More]
  • MIT — “Our research group is trying to break the quipu code. But before we can test a hypothesis about how the quipu code might work, we need to come up with some hypotheses. How could the Incas have recorded language with knots on rope? … We are hopeful that exploring different approaches to recording language with knots will lead to insights into solving the mystery of the quipu.” Dated: 22 Jan 2007 [More]
  • Open Khipu Repository — “This open-source digital repository stores the most up-to-date data and metadata on extant Inka-style khipus from archaeological sites in the Andes, as well as museums around the world. Inka khipus were unique pre-Columbian, Andean recording devices that used three-dimensional signs — primarily knots, cords, and colors — as symbols functionally akin to those of early writing systems in other cultures. Spanish chronicles, as well as contemporary khipu studies indicate that the Inka used khipus to record everything from accounting records to historical narratives.” [More]
  • Wikipedia — “A combination of color, fiber and ply direction leads to a total of 95 combinations in these quipus, which is within the range of a logosyllabic writing system.” … “In 1994, the American cultural anthropologist Frank Salomon conducted a study in the Peruvian village of Tupicocha, where quipus are still an important part of the social life of the village. As of 1994, this was the only known village where quipus with a structure similar to pre-Columbian quipus were still used for official local government record-keeping and functions, although the villagers did not associate their quipus with Inca artifacts.” [More]

Khipu Digital Photography

Due to the need for detailed quality images (explained later in this document), a present-day photograph of a Khipu should probably be taken with a high-quality digital camera using natural lighting that will faithfully represent the actual colors of the Khipu. Here are some considerations.

  • Angle — An attractive visual presentation of a Khipu can be achieved by taking the photo at an angle with a narrow depth of field. Portions of the Khipu will be in sharp focus and other portions will be out of focus. While this is artistically and visually interesting, it does not preserve an accurate and clear visual presentation of the entire Khipu as needed for more intricate analysis. So, a photo with the camera precisely perpendicular to the Khipu and background is best.
  • Background — It is not always possible to specify a background, and opinions may vary. A white background may be the least distracting. A black background may offer the best contrast. A “green screen” background may offer the option of creating a transparent PNG image for use on a book cover or other application such as computer analysis. If possible, having two or three different backgrounds may help later with photo processing.
  • Focal Depth — Focal depths with automatic cameras can be shallow in low lighting. This means that a photograph of a Khipu in low lighting may result in a slightly out of focus image, or an image where portions of the strings and fibers are in focus, but other portions are out of focus. Better lighting as explained below will help. As the f-stop (lens opening) is greater, a setting used in low lighting, the focal length is narrow
  • Lighting — To achieve greater focus and clarify, greater depth of field (focal depth) should be pursued by using more lighting. The LED lights used in homes are typically 3200k color temperature which results in a warmer off-white light. A kitchen or office may have 5000k color temperature LED lights which have more of a white daylight appearance. This white daylight type of lighting should help colors be captured as close as possible to their actual appearance. So, 5000k color lights should be helpful when taking Khipu photos.
  • Measurement — It is helpful to have a measurement device pictured with the Khipu for perspective. Ideally an x-axis and y-axis measurement would be visible. If time permits, having a photo with measurement guides and another without measurement guides can be useful. There may be presentations or printing applications where only the visual of the Khipu itself is desired.
  • Preview — Having a high quality laptop computer with very high resolution color calibrated display would help with reviewing the photographs in real-time to ensure the desired clarity and sharpness are being achieved. This is better than using the display on a digital camera where zooming would be required to see detail.
  • RAW — Digital photos should be taken using the RAW file format rather than compressed JPEG. This will result in a larger file size, but preserve the best quality of the image when saved. The RAW file format allows for greater editing options later.
  • Shadows — Avoid shadows that may distort the true color of the Khipu. Shadows can be reduced by having different locations for lighting sources.

Slide Photography

Developed in the early 1900s, color slides were a popular photographic film choice in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Until about 1995, color transparency was preferred for publication because of the films’ higher contrast and resolution, and was widely used in commercial and advertising photography, reportage, sports, stock and nature photography.” [Source]

The developed film was placed in a sturdy frame and could be scanned, used for prints, or used with a projector for group presentations. Slide image quality was very good. Ektachrome and Kodachrome films were popular. A Kodachrome slide film rated as 64 ASA could produce colorful sharp images.

Slide photography resulted in people retaining and protecting the original film, unlike print photography. Print photography would typically result in a collection of prints with original negatives being discarded by many photographers who considered their original prints to be the main method of saving the photographs. Those prints would get dirty, scratched, and otherwise degrade. They were a secondary photo and not the original film.

Fast forward about 40 years and now we have a need to use scanners to preserve, backup, share, and use old slides from many decades of slide photography.

Computer-Based Translation

Computer-based translation systems are not a substitute for human understanding of context and meaning, but they can serve as a tool for language insights.

Today, computers can translate spoken language, written language, and even visual 3D language such as sign language. The software SIGNALL is able to view hand gestures and translate them into spoken or written language. The translations are not perfect, but can sometimes serve fairly accurately for expressing general meaning.

With OCR, computers can take images of words, recognize the letters, use known databases of most likely meanings based on context, and then produce an editable document of the most likely correct interpretation of the images on the page. This is something that happens in a split second with human visual reading, so we don’t give it much consideration.

With Braille we learn to identify patterns of dots. For a blind person this is done through touch. A sighted person may learn and read Brailled visually.

Morse code is sometimes represented in written form of dashes and dots, but audio is the primary way morse code is used in communication. The sound is sometimes referred to as “da dit dit da” with “da” representing the longer tone and “dit” representing the shorter tone.

Single characters used together to represent words of spoken language are a common form of written language. With more complex writing systems, such as Chinese, a character does not combine with other to phonetically represent a spoken word. A single character can convey a word, description, or idea.

With AI models, computers can be smarter, more aware, and capable of abstract processes and comparisons. It’s reasonable to think that an AI system could be created to interpret the meaning of Khipu. It could simultaneously be aware of all Khipu collections and relevant documents to look for patterns.

This is important because it would give present and future generations greater understanding into the culture and events from which Khipu was developed.

The study of modern medicine sometimes finds substances in ancient rainforests that are instrumental in developing cures for modern-day ills. Similarly, an better understanding of Khipu may uncover some insights or knowledge that could help modern society.

A Lesson From OCR

When scanning printed documents for OCR processing, a 300dpi resolution may seem adequate and may work for some software. However, higher resolutions may be expected by some OCR software because the additional details conveyed at higher resolutions can help produce more accurate results.

Photos of Khipu, or scans of slide images, should be done using a higher resolution than one might typically use. If scanning slides, a 48 Bit scan can help produce sharper color variations helpful for interpreting fibers and color nuances.

Language in 2D, 3D, and 4D

A two dimensional language system can be represented as letters and words on a sheet of paper, or even using two dimensional images.

Imagine a three dimensional language where blocks are used. A two dimensional photo of the blocks from one side would not allow the viewer to know if the block was a cube or other shape. Only holding the object or viewing it from all sides would that be known.

With Khipu, while a two dimensional photo can provide a visual insight into the general structure and design, it is important to be mindful that the Khipu system seems to be based on many aspects including fibers and colors.

When we read English, the size of characters, their color, and font style may (or may not) convey something about the intended mood of what is written. However, colors and fonts don’t change the meaning of a word or group of words.

With Khipu, the color can have a meaning, the fiber used can have a meaning, the knots convey information, etc. So, it is a complex multi-layered system.

So, in this regard, the Khipu system could be thought of as four dimensional in terms of complexity. When we see and feel a knot, we have a sense of the knot in three dimensions. But the color is an additional level of information.

Document History

This document was originally posted on 11 Mar 2023 with the name “Khipu – Quipu – Andean Cord Notation – Knotted Strings Recording Devices.” It evolved to become more of a guide to scanning images of Khipu and secondarily a reference guide. So it has been renamed to “Khipu Reference and Image Scanning Guide.”

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