The Lebombo bone is a bone tool made of a baboon fibula with incised markings discovered in Border Cave in the Lebombo Mountains located between South Africa and Eswatini. Changes in the section of the notches indicate the use of different cutting edges, which the bone's discoverer, Peter Beaumont, views as evidence for their having been made, like other markings found all over the world, during participation in rituals.
The bone is between 43,000 and 42,000 years old, according to 24 radiocarbon datings. This is far older than the Ishango bone with which it is sometimes confused. Other notched bones are 80,000 years old but it is unclear if the notches are merely decorative or if they bear a functional meaning.
The bone has been conjectured to be a tally stick. According to The Universal Book of Mathematics the Lebombo bone's 29 notches suggest "it may have been used as a lunar phase counter, in which case African women may have been the first mathematicians, because keeping track of menstrual cycles requires a lunar calendar". However, the bone is broken at one end, so the 29 notches may or may not be the total number. In the cases of other notched bones since found globally, there has been no consistent notch tally, many being in the 1–10 range.
- Beaumont, Peter B. (1973). "Border Cave – A Progress Report". South African Journal of Science. 69: 41–46.
- Francesco d’Errico et al. (2012) Early evidence of San material culture represented by organic artifacts from Border Cave, South Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109(33): 13214-13219. It is called a notched bone, illustrated in Fig. 1, 12 d'Errico, F.; Backwell, L.; Villa, P.; Degano, I.; Lucejko, J. J.; Bamford, M. K.; Higham, T. F. G.; Colombini, M. P.; Beaumont, P. B. (2012). "Early evidence of San material culture represented by organic artifacts from Border Cave, South Africa". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 109 (33): 13214–13219. Bibcode:2012PNAS..10913214D. doi:10.1073/pnas.1204213109. PMC 3421171. PMID 22847420.
[Layer] 1BS Lower B-C [is dated] between 43 ka and 42 ka.
- Ralf Vogelsang et al. (2010) New excavations of Middle Stone Age deposits at Apollo 11 Rockshelter, Namibia: stratigraphy, archaeology, chronology and past environments. Journal of African Archaeology 8(2): 185–218 Richter, Jürgen; et al. (2010). "New Excavations of Middle Stone Age Deposits at Apollo 11 Rockshelter, Namibia: Stratigraphy, Archaeology, Chronology and Past Environments". Journal of African Archaeology. 8 (2): 185–218. doi:10.3213/1612-1651-10170.
- d'Errico, Francesco, Luc Doyon, Ivan Colagé, Alain Queffelec, Emma Le Vraux, Giacomo Giacobini, Bernard Vandermeersch, and Bruno Maureille. "From number sense to number symbols. An archaeological perspective." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 373, no. 1740 (2018): 20160518.
- Beaumont, Peter B.; Bednarik, Robert G. (2013). "Tracing the Emergence of Palaeoart in Sub-Saharan Africa" (PDF). Rock Art Research. 30 (1): 33–54. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-21. Retrieved 2014-08-30.