Thursday, April 21, 2016

Quellqa: Ancient Written Language of Peru – Part VI

Continuing with the previous posts on the original Peruvian and even Incan script writing and its demise and disappearance that left no record of its existence.
“I write this epistle unto you, Lachoneus, and I hope that ye will deliver up your lands and your possessions, without the shedding of blood, that this my people may recover their rights and government, who have dissented away from you because of your wickedness in retaining from them their rights of government, and except ye do this, I will avenge their wrongs. I am Giddianhi”
Giddianhi, Governor
Gaddianton Robbers
(3 Nephi 3:10)
As we started out in this series, at one time with the fact that the Inca and pre-Inca had a written script language. This would not have been the Nephite language, since the Lamanites would have destroyed all things that were Nephite in order to justify their “ownership” of the land through the birthright. Again, while this is not an important thing to us today, it certainly was a point of immense concern in the time of Lehi and his descendants, even to the time of Giddianhi, the governor of the Gaddianton Robbers 600 years later. In fact, even today, it is a bone of contention between the Arabs and the Jews as to who “owns” the land and the status of Jews among Arabs.
    We know, of course, that the Nephites had two languages, Hebrew and Reformed Egyptian. How many others, if any, besides the sacred recorders and the prophets knew the Reformed Egyptian is unknown. It seems clear that prophets made sure their children, at least their sons, were taught Reformed Egyptian, as Mosiah shows when “he caused [his sons] that they should be taught in all the language of his fathers, that thereby they might become men of understanding; and that they might know concerning the prophecies which had been spoken by the mouths of their fathers, which were delivered them by the hand of the Lord” (Mosiah 1:2) obviously referring to the Reformed Egyptian since, “having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time” (Mosiah 1:4). It appears from this, that even Laman and Lemuel at one time knew Egyptian, and could read the scriptures on the Brass Plates.
    However, over time, the Lamanite language veered far from that of the common Hebrew spoken by the Nephites, for about 500 years after Nephi left them with the records, they had to be retaught the language of the Nephites (Mosiah 24:4,6). Sometimes after the demise of the Nephites, and toward the end or after the civil wars between the Lamanites drew to a close, a group or tribe arose within several valleys along the northern coastal region of Peru that modern archaeologists have called the Chimú, who built or moved into a capital city today called Chan Chan (below), near Moche and Trujillo, which is considered to have been the hub of a vast trade and tribute network with no fewer than 26,000 craftsmen and women residing there.
Basically, an agricultural society, they built an irrigation system using canals, though their military prowess later insured them of wealth from extracting tributes from other tribes. Before them was the Moche, though even modern archaeologists cannot be certain these were just not early Chimú (Proto-Chimú), meaning, a continuation of the same people. They are credited with a rich iconographic and monumental architecture that survives today in their huacas and irrigation systems. 
While archaeologists insist that various cultures were independent of one another and that they were separate cultures with no interactive involvement, one chronologically following the other, it is interesting that their pottery, which archaeologists use to determine these separate cultures, are all so very similar in design and purpose as shown here that it would be difficult to separate their styles. Note the odd type of stirrup handled vases that were found all over ancient Peru. These are considered by archaeologists, from left to right top to bottom: Salinar culture, Cupisnique culture, Moche culture, Chancay-Chimu culture, Mochica culture, and the Huari culture
Before the Chimú, archaeologists claim were the Salinar culture and the Cupisnique before that. Except for the improving designs of weapons and ceramics, murals and artwork, there are few distinguishing factors that would separate any of these groups from a continuing, growing society to anyone but archaeologists and anthropologists. In fact, even the professionals claim there are “considerable parallelism between Moche and Cupisnique iconography and ceramic designed, including the iconogrpahy of the so-called “Spider god.”
    The point is, among this period of developing people, dated from about 200 B.C. through to the time of their conquest by the Inca in 1470, certain events are said in legend to have happened that have a direct bearing on our subject matter. And that is at one point among these people, they possessed signs that represented the pictographic writing system of the civilization of the so-called classic period, the pre-Incan age, in Peru. During this first millennium A.D., the pictographs were written on earthenware or tablets, later during the Chimu state, they were written on palm leaves, a material that was readily available according to Montesinos’s history. 
Unfortunately, such organic material could not long survive in the humid climate of the coastal valleys of Peru, such as the burial grounds of the Vicus civilization not even human remains or textiles have been found there. It should be noted, in fact, that the climate of the coastal strip of Peru is quite varied, it being a desert split by some fifty river valleys that are rainless and very dry in the south (Nazca to Paracas) and in the north regions they are very humid (Moche, Vicus).
    When the Inca conquered this coastal region in 1470, and encountered this script writing, which was an extremely comfortable means of disseminating verbal information, it was looked upon suspiciously by the Inca since it did not fit into their way of governing domestic policy, because with this script, they feared the people could be encouraged to free thinking and the pluralism of ideas among the population and endanger the embryonic totalitarian regime and control of the Inca. Obviously, it seemed politically more prudent simply to ban the use of such an easily learnable script altogether and promote instead the mnemotechnical statistics device quipu, which was more suited to the needs of the Inca hierarchy anyway since it was more a record keeping system than a free-thinking method.
It would also have been prudent for the Inca to consult with the well-known oracle at Pachacamac, which had been incorporated into the Inca state only recently. Obviously, the situation of the local priesthood was still insecure under Inca control and apparently they were forced to show loyalty with the answer that was expected from them by the presence of Tupack’s occupying troops. 
    The fact that several Inca legends passed down over the years and repeated to the Spanish, at least in Montesinos investigations, shows that the rationale used by the Inca in their oral histories is that a serious calamity and reversal of Inca fortunes, some surrounding a massive battlefield defeat, others involving weather calamities, the gods told the oracles that the disasters had occurred as a result of the written script, which the gods found most offensive and demanded it be banned under penalty of death.
    It also might be of interest to note, according to Cesar Paternosto (The Stone and the Thread: Andean Roots of Abstract Art, University Texas Press, 1996, p169), that when the Spanish arrived, the Inca had never seen paper—any earlier writing had been on leaves of certain trees, so the papers the Spaniards carried, were of extreme interest to the Inca, since they would have been so different from what any of the older Inca might have known. They “concluded that their Iberian lords possessed a magical means of “communication.”
In fact, to a large degree, the chronicles written by the Spaniards bespoke the derision with which they referred to the Andean peoples’ lack of script—at least one the Spaniards could identify as such. Later, according to Regina Harrison, native testimonies “revealed a prolonged curiosity regarding the Spanish writing system…the alphabet, seen through the indigenous eyes, assumed magical properties” (Signs, Songs and Memory in the Andes, Translating Quechua language and Culture, University of Texas, 1989 pp55-56; also Anthropological Linguistics, Vol 31 No 3/4, 1989, pp 299-301).
    In addition, the Quechua language, as it turned out, had a word “quellcca, which primarily meant “drawing” or “painting,” from the root word “quellccani,” which meant “to write.” Quellccani, also had a meaning of “embroidery,” which also suggested that the textile weaving of t’oqapu (tocapu) designs, as well as the tocapu on cups and other surfaces, was more than adornments.
    In fact, the Andean narratives of Tito Cusi Yupanqui (1570) of the Inca nobility, that have been cited and translated by Harrison claims the Spanish could “speak by looking at the cloth in front of them and to name several of us [Inca] by name without anyone having told anyone, and can do this merely by looking at the cloth in front of them.” Thus, this ethnohistoric source provides us with irresistible evidence that “cloth” (weaving) was in Inca society a most suitable means of transmitting information.
(See the next and last post in this series, “Quellqa: Ancient Written Language of Peru – Part VI,” on the demise and disappearance of the Peruvian and Inca script writing)

No comments:

Post a Comment