Are you someone looking to uncover history especially the ancient use of calculators? Then visit the Democratic Republic of Congo where you will see the Ishango bone-the beginning of mathematical calculations. The magnificent Ishango bone is an ancient artifact discovered in 1960 by a Belgian-Jean de Heinzelin de Braucourt off the shores of Lake Edward, close to the present border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. It was found in the African area of Ishango, which had its Headquarters near the headwaters of River Nile at Lake Edward.
This artifact is believed to have formed from the fibula of a baboon that dated back to the upper Paleolithic era (approximately between 9000 BC and 6500 BC) although it is said to be older than 20,000 years. It is said to be amongst the remains of the small community that fished and gathered in the regions of Africa, a small settlement that was later buried in a volcanic eruption.
This extraordinary artifact is one of the first examples of humans conceiving of what we know as numbers. For perspective, anatomically modern humans complete with brain size has existed for over 200,000 years and agriculture is understood to have reached Central Africa only 7000 years ago.
Tourists interested in seeing the Ishango bone can find it on the permanent exhibition at the Royal Belgian Institute of natural Sciences within Brussels Belgium. Written on the bone’s surface are three rows of groups of asymmetrical notches that were used to construct a numeral system. Presently, the rows of notches are written in numbers of 9, 19, 21, 11, 19, 12, 13, 11 and 7, 5, 5, 10, 8, 4, 6, 3. Most interestingly, all these written numbers have a significant meaning.
According to George Gheverghese Joseph in his book named “The Crest of the Peacock, the Non-European Roots of Mathematics noted that the notches representing some sort of game of arithmetic or probably a six month lunar calendar.
If you are someone interested in the history of mathematic, the Ishango Bone of the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the interesting artifacts that you must see in a lifetime.
In the book of “How mathematic Happened: The First 50,000 years”, Peter Rudman pointed that the development of the concept of prime numbers could have come about only after the concept of division which is believed to date back to 10,000 BC, with prime numbers believably not understood until around 500 BC. He also elaborates that no attempt has been made to explain why a tally of something should display multiples of two, prime numbers between 10 and 20 and some numbers that are almost multiples of 10.
Not only that, Alexander Marshack analyzed the old Ishango bone microscopically and deduced that is probably represents a 6-month lunar calendar yet Judy Robinson argues that Marshack over interprets that data and that the evidence doesn’t support the lunar calendars.
It was also used for tracking a woman’s menstrual cycle. Interestingly, this study stems from a 1991 group newsletter quote by an American ethno-mathematician named Claudia Zaslavsky who noted that for a woman to keep track of her menstrual cycle, she would need the lunar calendar. This according to Claudia means that the creator of the tool was a woman who wanted to track the lunar phase in relation to the menstrual cycle.
In conclusion, the Ishango bone is an old artifact discovered in 1960 off the shores of Lake Edward and is believed to date back to at least 11,000 years ago although it is believed to be older than 20,000 years. Visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and discover the origin of mathematic calculations while on a safari in Africa.