Vanished Worlds, Enduring People

The Written Word

Quechua Catechism. Chile, 19th century. [view first image] | [view second image]

Originally bound in hide, this pictographic catechism was created to teach religious ideas to parishioners from the Quechua-speaking area of the Andes who could not read. A memory aid rather than a writing system, the pictographic script shown here is based on European iconography. A line at the top, written in the Quechua language, introduces each page.

According to a translation published by Barbara H. Jaye and William P. Mitchell, the first line of the Apostle’s Creed shown here reads:

Line 1: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth

1. I believe in [kneeler]; 2. God [standing man with cloak and halo in oval]; 3. the Father Almighty [enlarged version of preceding God symbol]; 4. I believe in [kneeler]; 5. Jesus Christ [crucifix]; 6. I believe in [kneeler]; 7. heaven [ornamented circle with seated God]; 8. and earth [church in circle]; 9. the all powerful God [standing man with cloak and hat in oval]; 10. Father [man holding child or soul]; 11. creator [artisan with hammer].

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