Pre-Columbian Society of Washington DC

The Pre-Columbian Society of Washington, D.C. (PCSWDC), is an educational organization dedicated to furthering knowledge and understanding of the peoples of the Americas before the time of Columbus. Founded in 1993, the Society provides a forum for the exchange of information regarding these pre-Columbian cultures between academic professionals and interested members of the public.

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Unravelling the Wari World: Colored Cords, Patterned Wrapping, and Knots Probably Helped Manage South America’s First Empire by Jeffrey Splistoser, PhD, George Washington University

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

The Wari created the first South American empire, ca. 600–1000 CE, and they ran it with an incredible invention: the khipu. Wari khipus are devices made of wrapped and knotted cords that were used to store and record information we presume was vital to administer their state. Like their later, more famous, Inka counterparts, Wari-style khipus likely carried and conveyed information using color and knots. Wari khipus differ from Inka khipus, however, in many respects including their use of colorful wrapping. Beginning with an overview of the Wari and their empire, this richly illustrated talk will present findings from Splitstoser’s recent study of the Wari khipu corpus, which consists of some 40 specimens that are changing our understanding of how the Wari ran their empire.


Dr. Jeffrey C. Splitstoser is an Assistant Research Professor of Anthropology at George Washington University. He is currently the textile and khipus specialist for the El Castillo de Huarmey Archaeological Project, where he is studying a group of the textiles and khipus recently excavated from a Wari royal mausoleum (see the June 2014 issue of National Geographic Magazine). Splitstoser is also the textile specialist for the Huaca Prieta Archaeological Project, directed by Dr. Tom Dillehay, where he studied 6,200 year old cotton textiles that are colored with the world’s earliest known use of indigo. Splitstoser is the Vice President of the Boundary End Archaeology Research Center and the editor (with Dr. David Stuart) of its peer-reviewed journals, Ancient America and the Research Reports on Ancient Maya Writing. He is a research associate of the Institute of Andean Studies, Berkeley, and a Cosmos Club scholar. Splitstoser was a Junior Fellow at the Dumbarton Oaks (2005‒2006). He received his Master’s degree (1999) and Ph.D. (2009) in anthropology from The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. His dissertation is a study of the Early Paracas textiles from Cerrillos in the Ica Valley of Peru.

Earlier Event: October 13
Later Event: December 1

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