National Geographic : 1975 Jan
OR MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY the fragment of carved reindeer bone had rested in a dim corner of a French mu seum, forgotten and never closely ex amined. When I slipped it under my micro scope on that July day in 1965, I suddenly felt that I was looking into the mind of the man who had fashioned and used it more than thirty thousand years ago. A serpentine series of marks, made with many different tools, had been engraved on the surface of the bone (pages 66-7). They clearly formed an intentional pattern-a record or tally of some sort. Eventually I unlocked the puzzle: With startling precision the image, made during the late Ice Age, coincides with phases of the moon over a period of more than two months. Whether or not the image is accepted as lunar, as it seems to be, I had discovered the earliest known human notation, made more than twenty thousand years before the de velopment of writing, arithmetic, or the cal endars of later cultures we regard as civilized.