25 May 2021

The computer used by the Inca

"The Incas used a computer.  We do not know how it worked or how the calculations were made, nor do we know what they were calculating.  The device was a box with twenty compartments placed in four rows of five.  Stones were placed in the various compartments, some black, some white.  A compartment was filled when five stones were in it.  Padre Jose de Acosta watched the Incas manipulate this abacuslike device and drew a sketch.  But that was back in 1590.  He was unable to follow the computing procedure.  None of these 20-core memory banks have been found by archaeologists.  Were they destroyed as worthless, pagan magic?"
Text and image from Beyond Stonehenge, by Gerald S. Hawkins (Dorset Press, 1973).  The other relevant item in the image is a quipu, explained here.

Two other things I learned from the book.  There is an Arctic Circle for the moon (equivalent to the solar Arctic Circle we are all familiar with).

Also: "Astronomers recognize A.D. 0 but historians do not.  They count B.C. 2, B.C. 1, A.D. 1..."

3 comments:

  1. Thought you might be interested in this article about a college student that helped decode the quipu or khipu...
    https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/khipus-inca-empire-harvard-university-colonialism

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  2. Maybe after Padre Jose de Acosta arrived they were too busy fighting for their freedom, their land, their treasure, their lives, to worry about calculations and records

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    Replies
    1. Not sure what you refer to regarding Acosta. He arrived in Peru in 1570, more than 4 decades after the Spanish had taken control of Peru, and 2 years after Toledo, the 5th Viceroy of Peru, ordered the beheading of Tupac Amura and began his "reductions." Acosta is viewed by most Historians as a humanitarian. As with most Jesuit clerics of that time, his goal was to spread Christianity, but he was against the use of force or coercion to bring about conversion. He asserted that the Spanish wars of conquest were unjust and that violence against and theft from the people of the Americas was "the greatest of sins." Acosta wrote that "indigenous hostility to Christianity was not a result of their incapacity to understand it, but was a direct result of Spanish violence and the scandalous behavior of priests, missionaries, and colonial administrators who were supposed to be examples of the love of Christ."

      When Acosta was called back to Spain, he spoke out against talk of a Spanish conquest of China and worked for acceptance of the growing Muslim population in Southern Spain.

      Much of what we know about the early history of the Incas and Aztecs came from the writings of Acosta. He is also credited with the origin of the theory that the indigenous people of the Americas migrated here from Asia via a land bridge across the Bering Sea. The term "Acosta's disease," aka altitude sickness, derives from his writings about his illnesses while traveling across the Andes Mountains.

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