Researchers Uncover World’s Oldest Fishhooks

Ancient Fish Hooks
The 23,000-year-old fishhooks, crafted from sea snail shells, were used to catch parrotfish and eels.The Japan Times

Researchers on a small island between mainland Japan and Taiwan have discovered what are believed to be the world's oldest fishhooks. The hooks are 23,000 years old and were found in a limestone cave on the interior southern end of Okinawa Island, according to a new paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The hooks were shaped out of sea snail shells, __and researchers used radiocarbon dating to estimate their age. Other early fishhooks, dating back 16,000 years, have been found in Timor and Papua New Guinea. Masaki Fujita, a co-author of the study and curator at Okinawa Prefectural and Art Museum, tells CNN that maritime technology was an important factor in human dispersal across the world. "Our findings suggest that Paleolithic people had adapted their maritime technologies to live not only in Wallacea [a group of Indonesian islands] and Australia," she tells CNN, "but a much wider geographic zone."

According to The Japan Times, the fishhooks had been ground into a shape that resembles a crescent moon. The people who used them may have been trying to catch parrotfish or eels, researchers say. Discovered among the hooks was apparent food waste, including crab shells, fish bones, and shellfish shells.

“It’s amazing to know that the fishing technique that we have now could be the same as the one in ancient times,” Fujita says.