1502 words - 6 pages

The history of mathematics has its roots on the African continent. The oldest mathematical object was found in Swaziland Africa. The oldest example of arithmetic was found in Zaire. The 4000 year old, Moscow papyrus, contains geometry, from the Middle Kingdom of Egypt, Egypt was the cradle of mathematics. The great Greek mathematicians, including Pythagoras, Thales, and Exodus all acquired much of their mathematics from Egypt, including the notion of zero. This paper will discuss a brief history of mathematics in Africa. Starting with the Lebombo bone and the Ishango Bone, I will then present Egyptian mathematics and end with a discourse on Muslim mathematics in African. “Most histories of mathematics devote only a few pages to Africa and Ancient Egypt... Generally they ignore the history of mathematics in Africa … and give the impression that this history either did not exist or, at least …is not knowable.”

Due to archeological evidence we know that the African people were the first people in the world to use counting to keep track of their things, or time. Around 35,000 BC, in South Africa the earliest known tally stick was made, and was left in Lebombo Cave. 29 notches were cut into the stick. We don't know exactly what they were counting. Some people think they were counting the days from one moon phase to the next, but it could have been something else. Just as well. Now, what we do see is that by 35,000 BC people in South Africa had the idea of keeping records by making marks. “The Lebombo bone is a baboon fibula with a set of 29 notches carved in it. Archeologists believe these marks are evidence of a primitive calendar, measuring either the lunar or the menstrual calendar. This artifact is incredibly important for understanding of the development of mathematics, record keeping and early writing.”

Further north, in East Africa, About 20,000 BC, at Ishango, at the head of the Nile River, another tally stick was found “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. 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 contain the prime numbers between 10 and 20.” Around 7000 BC, people in Egypt and further south in Sudan began to use clay tokens to count things. They probably got the idea from West Asia, where people began using tokens earlier. “Thus by this early period in the development of civilization, humans' mnemonic devices were already forming. The bones, discovered in the late 60s and early 70s, uses a method of marking, in which an elongated stick or bone was engraved with a series of marks, offering an analog measure of individual events.”

By 3000 BC, people in Egypt were using hieroglyphs to write numbers. “Egyptians were very practical in their approach to mathematics and their trade required that they could deal...

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