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The Earliest example of Mathematics in the world found in Africa dated between 35,000-20,000 years old.

Two artifacts found in Africa represent the earliest and oldest examples of mathematical structure in human History. They are the Lebombo bone and the Ishango bone. The first being the Lebombo Bone found during the early 1970’s in the Lebombo Mountains between South Africa and Swaziland Dated back to 35,000 years. The second oldest is the Ishango bone, a bone tool handle made from the fibula of a baboon, found in 1958 in Congo which is dated back to at least 20,000 years.

The Ishango bone

The Ishango bone  Has an ‘arrangement of the notches engraved on the handle of the bone, and the numbers in each group, these numbers are clearly not casual. Analysis of their numerological properties led people to conclude that the artifact is not a simple tally stick, but a kind of calculator based on special number systems. Each of the groupings in the left and right columns contains an odd number of notches (9, 11, 13, 17, 19, and 21), while the numbers contained in the first column are precisely the four prime numbers between 10 and 20. From facts such as these it is thought that the groupings represent numbers and the whole design represents a system of reckoning based upon counting by digits. It has also thought that the bone could have been used for time reckoning, following the observable course of the moon over a period of about 5½ synodic (lunar phase cycle) months, based on a period of a double lunation of 59–60 days.

Women May have been the first to use mathematics. 

One theory has been proposed stating the question “who but a woman keeping track of her cycles would need a lunar calendar?” and concludes that “women may have been undoubtedly the first mathematicians!”. since keeping track of menstrual cycles requires a lunar calendar.

The Lebombo bone

The Lebombo bone was discovered much later and is a small piece of the fibula of baboon bone marked with 29 clearly defined notches. It  ”resembles calendar sticks still in use today by Bushmen clans in Namibia” .


ICOMOS–IAU (2011)“Heritage Sites of Astronomy and Archaeoastronomy in the context of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention: A Thematic Study”{Astronomy and World Heritage }  [online] Available from: 


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