The oldest fishhook ever found

The oldest fishhook ever found is a remarkable step into the distant past and a reminder of the ingenuity of early fishermen. This ancient object, estimated to have been crafted around 8,000 BC, was discovered during an archaeological excavation in 2017 in Okinawa, Japan.

Archaeologists in Israel found it in the city of Askhelon. It would be the oldest fishhook ever found. They estimate that it was probably used to catch sharks.

“The shape and size of the hook are typical for use with sharks. Also with larger tuna. But on the Israeli coast tuna is not as common as in the southern Mediterranean.” This was stated by archaeologist Yael Abadi-Reiss. She is a senior researcher at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), through an official statement.

The oldest fishhook found turned up in Israel.
The oldest fishhook found turned up in Israel.

Table of Contents

Sharks

The hunting tool must have been used with small sharks, the archaeologist concludes. Probably dusky sharks and sandbar sharks. These continue to visit the coasts of Israel from November to May.

The ancient hook is 6.5 centimeters long and four centimeters wide. It is made of copper and is in a perfect state of preservation. This metal was a new technology in the Chalcolithic period. At that time most fishhooks were still made of bone, the archaeologist explained.

During this era, large villages were established around Ashkelon. Their economy was based on herding sheep, goats and cows. Also on the cultivation of wheat, barley and legumes. Already 6,000 years ago there was an area of copper metallurgy. This is probably where the oldest fishhook ever found was created.

In Israel, excavation is done before new construction to rule out that an archaeological site will be damaged. And so it was in the neighborhood of Agamim in Ashkelon. They found that humans had lived there some 6,000 years ago.

The find turned up in excavations.
The find appeared in some excavations.

Exhibit

“We find that they had livestock, ate bread, olive oil, hummus (chickpea paste) and lentils. But we also see that they knew how to fish. Not only in shallow water, but in deep water.”

Fishing was not really the day-to-day life of those people. There are few fish bones in the area of the excavations. Analyses of pottery vessels and dishes did not reveal many remains of such food.

The fishhook will be exhibited for the first time this April 2023 at the 48th Archaeological Congress. It is being organized by the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Exploration Society and the Israel Archaeological Association.

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