In 1960, Professor Jean de Heinzelina Belgian geologist discovered a small animal bone in Ishango, a small African fishing village on the border of Zaire and Uganda. The small bone was inscribed with marking that is thought by some to represent numbers. It was originally thought to be between 6,000 and 9,000 years old. However, it was recently re-dated and found to be around 25,000 years old. At first glance the Ishango bone is said to resemble a simple writing tool. It is 10 cm long, and at one end is embedded with a piece of quartz thought to be for engraving and tattooing.
"For example, along one edge the number of notches in each group is a prime number (prime numbers are divisible only by themselves and one; e.g., 1, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 19, etc.) Coincidence? Perhaps. But then, there are three separate rows of notches, and the total number of notches in each row is a multiple of twelve. Another coincidence? Maybe. But along one row, the notches in adjacent groups appear to be related by a factor of two: 3 notches in one group and 6 in the next, then 4 followed by 8, then 10 and 5. A crude multiplication table? Or another coincidence?"
"They suggest that, as there are only 4 numbers on the left hand column of the bone, it may be just a simple coincidence that all of these are prime numbers. The most compelling aspect of their argument is the fact that there is no evidence of the knowledge of prime numbers before the Classical Greek period, at least 10,000 years later. " Source: Simonsingh
Ishango Bone now lies in the Royal Institute for Natural Sciences of Belgium in Brussels, and can only be seen on special requests.
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