23,000-year-old fish hooks suggest that maritime technology was developed much earlier than previously thought
People have been using barbed and baited tools for catching fish for centuries and the earliest evidence of any such tool has been recently discovered in a cave of Japanese island.
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A team of Japanese researchers has discovered a pair of nearly 23,000 years old fish hooks in the island of Okinawa, making them the oldest fish hooks ever found. The discovery also indicates that humans adapted maritime technology much earlier than previously thought.
“Maritime adaptation was one of the essential factors that enabled modern humans to disperse all over the world. However, geographic distribution of early maritime technology during the Late Pleistocene remains unclear. At this time, the Indonesian Archipelago and eastern New Guinea stand as the sole, well-recognized area for secure Pleistocene evidence of repeated ocean crossings and advanced fishing technology.” Authors wrote in the study.
Researchers discovered fish hooks in Sakitari cave, a site they have been excavating since 2009. The cave has been considered as a way to peek into the past and to understand how the early humans were living on the island. Prior researches suggest that people started to inhabit the island approximately 50,000 years ago but on temporary basis, meaning they were visiting the island only during excessive availability of crabs and freshwater snails. But this discovery suggests that people were permanently living on the island for the past 23,000 year and were catching prey using fish hooks made out of shells. In other words, they had found a way to survive on what was considered a resource-limited island.
“Our findings suggest that Paleolithic people had adapted their maritime technologies to live not only in Wallacea and Australia, but a much wider geographic zone.” Study co-author Masaki Fujita, who is a curator at Okinawa Prefectural and Art Museum told CNN.
The previous oldest fish hooks were found in East Timor around 16,000 years old and in Papua New Guinea around 18,000 years ago. Besides world’s oldest fish hooks, Sakitari Cave site has yielded a number of seashell based artifacts too, including beads and tools crafted by the humans living in the island. Researchers have also found remains of the cooked food in the cave, suggesting ancient people tend to cook food before eating.
“The persistent occupation on this relatively small, geographically isolated island, as well as the appearance of Paleolithic sites on nearby islands on 30,000 years ago, suggest wider distribution of successful maritime adaptations than previously recognized, spanning the lower to midlatitude areas in the western Pacific coastal region.”