Mathematics in Ancient Africa

Rarely do historians discuss mathematics in Africa, and when they do, they only discuss it in Egypt and Northern Africa.

However, the oldest mathematical objects in the world have been found in sub-Saharan Africa.

The picture is of Ishango bones. They were found near Lake Edward on the borders of Uganda and Zaire and are estimated to be 25,000 years old.

At one end of the Ishango Bone is a piece of quartz for writing, and the bone has a series of notches carved in groups (shown below). It was first thought these notches were some kind of tally marks as found to record counts all over the world. However, the Ishango bone appears to be much more than a simple tally. The markings on rows (a) and (b) each add to 60. Row (b) contains the prime numbers between 10 and 20. Row (a) is quite consistent with a numeration system based on 10, since the notches are grouped as 20 + 1, 20 - 1, 10 + 1, and 10 - 1. Finally, row (c) seems to illustrate for the method of duplication (multiplication by 2) used more recently in Egyptian multiplication. Recent studies with microscopes illustrate more markings and it is now understood the bone is also a lunar phase counter. Who but a woman keeping track of her cycles would need a lunar calendar? Were women our first mathematicians?

Considering that I’ve heard an argument that women were the first agriculturists/farmers because men were out hunting, I think, because of the same reason, it is reasonable to assume that women created this tool.

Our history has been hidden, stolen, and kept from the world.

(via masaninegloria)