African Origins of Mathematics

Originally posted on July 02, 2013

The Lebombo bone is the oldest mathematical object known to man. It dates back to 35,000 BC and resembles the calendar stick that is used by the Khoisan “bushmen” tribes of southern Africa.

According to, “in the 1970′s during the excavations of Border Cave, a small piece of the fibula of a baboon, the Lebombo bone, was found marked with 29 clearly defined notches…”

The Universal Book of Mathematics says:

One of the oldest mathematical artifacts known, a small piece of the fibula of a baboon, found near Border Cave in the Lebombo Mountains between South Africa and Swaziland. Discovered in the 1970s during excavations of Border Cave and dated about 35,000 B.C., the Lebombo bone is marked with 29 clearly defined notches. This suggests it may have been used as a lunar phase counter, in which case African women may have been the first mathematicians, because keeping track of menstrual cycles requires a lunar calendar. Certainly, the Lebombo bone resembles calendar sticks still used by Bushmen in Namibia.

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