Definition:Ancient Tally Bones

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The ancient tally bones are archaeological relics purporting to demonstrate the earliest known indications of recorded numbers.

Lebombo Bone

The Lebombo bone is a baboon's leg bone bearing $29$ notches which were carved into it between $33 \ 000$ B.C.E. and $42 \ 000$ B.C.E.

It is the earliest known instance of a system of tally marks.

It was found in Border Cave in South Africa in the Lebombo mountains, near the border with Swaziland.

Various untestable hypotheses have been raised concerning this artefact, notably that it was created by an early African woman to count the days between her menses. However, as the bone appears to be broken at one end, it is possible that the count of $29$ is not the complete set of notches that were originally carved.

Wolf Bone

The (Czechoslovakian) wolf bone is a wolf bone dating from approximately $30 \ 000$ years ago, bearing $57$ marks which appear to have been made deliberately.

It was discovered in $1937$ in Czechoslovakia at Dolní Věstonice in Moravia, by a team led by Karl Absolon.

The markings are believed to be tally marks, and are arranged in $11$ groups of $5$, with $2$ left over.

The untestable hypothesis has been made that the number corresponds to a double lunar period.

Ishango Bone

The Ishango bone is a mathematical tool made from a leg bone of a baboon, dating from approximately $25 \ 000$ years ago.

It bears a system of markings which may be tally marks, but may in fact be for a more complex purpose.

It was found in $1960$ by Jean de Heinzelin de Braucourt in the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). It was discovered in the area of Ishango near the Semliki River.

One row of marks contains the prime numbers between $10$ and $20$, that is, $11$, $13$, $17$ and $19$, which total $60$.

Another row contains $9$, $11$, $19$ and $21$, which also total $60$.

The third row contains marks which appear to represent a method of multiplication by means of a technique involving doubling and halving.

While it is suggested that the markings form a calendar, it is also possible that the markings are coincidental, and perhaps even just put there to make the bone easier to hold.