Among the Inca, the education of the nobility was the responsibility of the Amantas, who were of aristocratic descent. Their instruction lasted four years. The first year was directed to learning the Quechua language; the second year to learning the religious traditions: the third and fourth years to learning the famous knotted strings (used as memory aids) called the Quipu.
On Easter Island, the Rongorono, from noble families attached to the king, used to learn chants and oral traditions in special huts. Alfred Mitraux (1941) describes how this oral tradition is learned: 'The students memory was perfectly trained, during the first year of schooling, they had to learn certain psalms by heart, which they recalled while playing 'cat's cradle' (a string wound across the fingers in certain patterns) each figure would represent a chant to be recited.
The Kou-hau made by the Rongorono on Easter Island, the skeins of coconut fibre adorned with knots made in the Marquesas Islands, the wooden tablets of the Cuna Indians in Panama, and the pieces of bark used by the Ojibwa Indians of North America, do not, strictly speaking, constitute writing systems, but they do represent mnemo-technical means pertaining to oral memory.
The same is true of certain systems of pictographical notation, such as the Aztec ideograms. Fernando de Alva recalls that the Aztecs used to have writers for each type of history 'some work with the Annals (Xiuhamatl) putting in order the things which took place each year, giving the day, the month, the hour. Others were charged with the genealogy and ancestors of the kings, nobles and persons of lineage ... others took care of the painting of the boundaries, the limits and the landmarks of the cities, provinces and recorded to whom they belonged.
These 'writers' used pictographs to construct a mnemonic system that later historians could refer to, provided that they also referred to the purely oral tradition, since a system of notation was not enough in itself for the total preservation of information. It was necessary, in addition, to have recourse to the memory that was transmitted by word of mouth through the traditional chants.
In India, the Brahmans who teach the Vedas are specialists in the technique of memory, even though the Vedas have for along time been fixed in writing. Louis Renou noted that; there is something fascinating in the process of memorising the verses. The master stares at the student while feeding him verses, so to speak, with an implacable regularity, while the student rocks back and forth in squatting position. After looking in for a few moments in such a recitation class, one better understands the hymn of the Rigveda (7.103) in which this monotonous delivery has been likened to the croaking of frogs
A precise description of the techniques of memorisation in the Vedic schools can be found in the 15th chapter of the Rig Pratisakhya, an old phonetic and grammatical treatise.
E. A. Havelock (1859-1939), British psychologist and author, insisted on the coexistence of two types of memory in ancient Greece up until the time of Plato: (1) written memory and (2) social memory that is still dependent on oral tradition. Thus it is noteworthy that, although the archives were available from the end of the15th cent B.C. it never occurred to Greek historians to refer to them as historical sources more reliable than the tradition transmitted by the works of their predecessors (appraised according to their degree of truthfulness) or transmitted by the experience of sight or hearing of testimony. And yet, already from about 470 B.C. Pinda and Aeschylus employ the metaphor that represents memory as an inscription, on the tablets of the soul, of what is fit to be remembered. Shortly before the poet Simonides is said to have invented the art of memory, a technique built upon the metaphor of writing, which will undergo an important development, passing by the way of Roman rhetoric (Quintillian) to the Renaissance. At the beginning of the 4th cent. B.C., Plato is obviously preoccupied with the negative effects of the invention of writing on memory. And Antisthenes of Athens recommends according more trust to personal memory than to the external memory of written annotations.
Although Homer appears to have been necessary reference point in ancient Greece, since his written text was learned by heart in the schools and recited by specialists at religious festivals, there was no religious text that had authority over others. Essentially pluralist and political Greek religion was a religion without dogmas. It obeyed customs, which varied from one sanctuary to the next. As a result, correct practice depended on diverse forms of information derived from a variety of sources: the family, the tribe, the town, and so on. Certain religious practices, such as though connected with the mysteries or with divination, were sometimes reserved for certain families or circles of initiates (for example, the Eumolpides and the Euryces, the Lamides, the Trophoniades), but every Greek, regardless of social status, was capable of addressing a prayer to the gods or performing the actions indispensable to a sacrifice. Deliberate memorisation, and for that matter writing as well, appeared as religious practices only in the context of such marginal devotions such as Orphism and Pythagoreanism.