A bone with carved line—simple in appearance, but fascinating in significance—begins to reveal the early mathematical brilliance of Sub-Saharan Africans 25,000 years ago. The Ishango Bone, one of the world’s oldest mathematical devices, was found in the mountainous Lake Edward region, bordering Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its asymmetrical notches suggest that it may have been used to construct a number system. It is also suspected to represent a six-month lunar calendar.
The 1950 finding of this important artifact supports the understanding that African innovations were not confined to Ancient Egypt, the Ghana Empire or other noted African civilizations. Found years after the Ishango Bone, and determined to be 10,000 years older, is the Lembobo Bone from eSwatini (formerly Swaziland). It further indicates that African people, over wide and varied areas throughout the continent, developed specialized areas of knowledge. Click below to learn more about the Ishango bone as one of the earliest indicators of African mathematical intellect.