Is This Ancient Numerical Notation?

The ancient origin of numbers is a subject not much explored by scientists. Evolutionary biologist Russell Gray remarks that the subject is “still a relatively vacant niche in scientific research.” But in 2018, Francesco d’Errico, an archaeologist at the University of Bordeaux, France, published a paper in which he hypothesizes that numerical notation may have began as early as 60,000 years ago, at the time of the Neanderthals. His idea was based on this hyena bone that has nine approximately parallel notches. His paper might have sparked interest among the scientific world. Today, scientists look for answers about the origin of numbers from different perspectives.

Cognitive scientists, anthropologists and psychologists are looking at contemporary cultures to understand differences among existing number systems — defined as the symbols that a society uses for counting and manipulating numbers. Their hope is that clues buried in modern systems might illuminate details of their origins. Meanwhile, archaeologists have begun looking for evidence of ancient numerical notations, and evolutionary biologists with an interest in language are exploring the deep origins of number words. These studies have spurred researchers to formulate some of the first detailed hypotheses for the prehistoric development of number systems.

Learn more about this intriguing study over at Nature.

(Image Credit: F. d’Errico via Nature)

#Neanderthal #Archaeology #Mathematics #OriginOfNumbers #Anthropology #CognitiveScience #EvolutionaryBiology

(Image Credit: F. d’Errico and L. Backwell via Nature)

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