Saturday, April 16, 2016

Quellqa: Ancient Written Language of Peru – Part I

In a world full of information, and enormous numbers of organizations and groups seeking and disseminating more and more information regarding the past, it is always interesting to see how certain information gets promoted and other information is kept hidden, placed on the back burner, or ignored entirely. 
In our book Scientific Fallacies and Other Myths, we show how this has happened on certain scientific beliefs, such as evolution, the Big Bang Theory, and the Red Shift of the Doppler Effect, as well as many others. It is also interesting to see how this tendency to ignore knowledge that doesn’t fit into the mainstream of thinking has woven its way through the archaeological world, especially when it comes to that of the New World of the Americas.
    According to Tarmo Kulmar, President of the Estonian Academic Oriental Society, an expert on pre-Columbian American Religion, especially in Peru and Mexico, and holder of a Doctorate of Theology and the dean of Faculty of Theology of the University of Tartu, “No system of government can exist without transcribing verbal information. Therefore, a state requires for its existence a writing system as a means of recording and reproducing information. As far as is known, there has never existed a civilization where such a means has not been used in one form or another.”
    Obviously, the Peruvian Inca was an effectively functioning empire with a strong central power and well-organized hierarchy of officials and certainly no exception to this rule. And according to Tarmo Kulmar, the Inca began using a script writing system, which had been earlier used in the Andean cultures before that for some time, according to the ancient chroniclers and data from the period of Spanish conquest and views of other scholars.
    Called Quellqa (ccellcca) a Quechua word, that according to the Quechua Dictionary by Malaga (1988), means “script.” Also found in literature are the spellings: kilca, quillca, quellcca, kellca, qillka. Thus the Inca civilization began with two writing systems, the Quellqa and the mnemotechnical knot-device quipu (kipu, qquipu, khipu, k’ipu).
    To understand this in its full import, one needs to know its sources, mainly that of a Spanish priest who ventured to Peru in the 1600s and was not published for 300 years afterward.
Fernando de Montesinos (Annals of Peru 1498-1642, published in two volumes in Madrid by Victor Manuel Mautua and Uribe 1906), was a writer, historian and Spanish priest who spent his time in the Viceroyalty of Peru, a territory from Cartegena (Colombia) to the Atacama (Chilean border). He arrived in America in 1628 in the entourage of the Viceroy Count of Chinchoa, though he was held in Trujillo as the secretary for Bishop Carlos Marcelo Corne. Due to his degree in Canon Law, he toured the Viceroy of Peru, covering a good part of South America, and with his avid interest and vast knowledge in physics and metallurgy sciences, his extreme curiosity to see old files and collect ancient traditions, he began to acquire a lengthy and rather complete file on all things Peruvian. He even was able to acquire documents and news about the Peruvian past while in the viceregal capital in Lima. 
    Officially, he sat as an ecclesiastical judge in Cajamarca, where he learned about the capture and murder of Atahualpa, and visited Quito, eventually returning to Spain in 1644. Drawing on his vast knowledge acquired in Peru among the Indians, and gaining from Blas Valera’s work, he compiled an extensive history of Peru that, though criticized by many scholars of his time, has since been proven correct in most of his statements (Memorias Antiguas, Historiales y Politicas del Perú, 1642]. Cuzco: Universidad de S.A.A).
    In fact, Montesions’ credibility seems to be far superior to that of other chroniclers who did not vary from the established pattern of the accepted “Inca line.” He had, after all, an adventurous spirit and an avid curiosity, traveling between Peru and Bolivia and crossing the Andes sixty times, visiting the Audiencia y Chancellería real de Lima (Royal Audience and Chancery of Lima) on several occasions—a superior court created in 1542 by Emporer Charles V, with jurisdiction over the entire viceroyalty—virtually all of Spanish-controlled South America and Panama. A proselyting Jesuit, Montesinos organized an expedition in the Amazon jungle in search of the legendary Inca lost city of Paititi. Of all of the chroniclers of ancient Peru, he was the most knowledgeable and had the official records of all the other chroniclers.
    Yet, because of his curiosity that led him into all sorts of areas of interest, of which he wrote about profusely, of all the Spanish chroniclers who came to the New World between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, he is considered the most mysterious. He was branded a fraud by the unforgiving establishment because he contradicted the official version of the 15 cuzqueños Incas who reigned only 300 years with his published list of over 100 Inca kings who ruled in a time span of more than 2000 years from various places in Peru. But it was his belief that the ancient Peruvians were descendants of Ophir, the grandson of the biblical Noah that removed him from any serious consideration by those of his day and since from the established archaeological community and modern historians. Yet, his chronicles are full of details that do not appear in any other chronic, such as eclipses of the sun several days, and views of numerous areas of Peru by a single writer because of his enormous travels and interactions with the locals of his day.
It should also be noted that the writings of one who worked for the Spanish crown, such as Montesinos, was a strenuous job and accuracy was critical for he reported directly to the king of Spain regarding the status of his new kingdom—if he went far astray, it would be apparent from the numerous other reports being sent to the king from other sources. 
    While the established historian community calls Montesinos an apocryphal writer, one supportive chronicler wrote of him: “When one thinks of the years of dedication to his work and the final recipient to whom it was addressed—the king, it is reasonable to think that the amazing Inca chronology was not an invention but a very thorough job.”
It should also be noted that the Inca, themselves, were very careful in crafting their own heritage and history, mostly for the purpose of creating a favorable and accredited existence to other cultures of their day. It helped in convincing another warring tribe to join them when they presented a history of ruling Cuzco for hundreds of years in an unbroken line; yet they also made sure their amautas (teachers) taught the growing nobility’s younger generations of the 14 cuzqueños kings, while making sure they did not know of any others in their linage that did not rule in Cuzco (actually, an important part of the fourteen actually ruled the Wari cuture in Ayacucho, but this was ignored). It is often said that history is written by the victors, and this is especially true of the Inca, whose history today is well documented, but in their time in the 15th century, was only known as they claimed it to be.
    What Montesinos, and his unknown informers, claim of the Inca linage is that it combined numerous cultures and groups into one, i.e., the Wari preceded the Inca, but were of the same lineage, etc. It was also claimed by him that the Inca linage, that is the linage of these 100 kings, dated back through various “modern”names to the time of the Chain and Tiahuanaco, or even before. That alone would get one ostracized from the modern archaeological and historical communities who maintain their different cultures belief at all costs.
    As a result, we find an intriguing interest in the written script language called Quellqa that Montesinos discovered and wrote about as the basis for this series of articles on that language, and the purpose of its demise and why the Inca favored the quipo rather than a much more versatile and useful written language, and were in that sense, illiterate when the Spanish arrived.
(See the next post, “Quellqa: Ancient Written Language of Peru – Part II,” for more information on both the Quellqa and Quipo langauges of the Inca and what happened to the written script)

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