World’s earliest fishhook found in Okinawa, Japan

Fishhook made up of sea snail shell

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2016, 4:48am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2016, 4:48am

A 23,000-year-old fishhook that is considered to be one of the world’s earliest has been excavated in Okinawa, southwestern Japan, local researchers said Monday.

The 1.4-centimeter-long, crescent-shaped hook made of sea snail shell represents a rare discovery of fishing gear from the Paleolithic era, or the Old Stone Age, according to the Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum.

“It’s a precious material illustrating a new aspect of the Paleolithic period during which we had thought people mainly hunted on land,” the museum said.

The hook was unearthed in 2012 during excavation at the Sakitari Cave site in Nanjo, Okinawa Prefecture.

Researchers have identified its age by radiocarbon dating of charcoal contained in the layer from which the hook was found.

The world’s oldest fishhook has so far been one found from the Jerimalai site in East Timor. However, the age of the hook, made also of shell, is identified only as from 16,000 to 23,000 years ago.

The researchers have also found an unfinished hook dating back to 13,000 to 23,000 years ago and fragments of grit considered to have been used to whet the hook. There was also a large amount of fish bones, shellfish shells and crab shells, apparently food waste.

From the site, the bones of a small child from 30,000 years ago have been excavated.