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23,000 year old fish hooks found in Japanese island cave

Fishhooks found on a southern Japanese island date back some 23,000 years, making them among the world’s oldest fishing implements, researchers said Monday.

23,000-year-old fish hooks found in Japanese island cave
Fishhooks discovered in Sakitari Cave in Okinawa, southern Japan, and which date back some 23,000 years, 
according to researchers [Credit: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum, via AFP]
The hooks were discovered in Sakitari Cave on the southern end of Okinawa Island several years ago, said Masaki Fujita, chief researcher for the study and a curator at Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum.

“We have finally concluded that the geological layer in which the fishhooks were found was formed 23,000 years ago,” Fujita said.

The hooks, made of the shells of sea snails, were ground into a shape resembling a crescent moon and may have been used to catch parrotfish or eels.

23,000-year-old fish hooks found in Japanese island cave
Researchers excavate Sakitari Cave in Okinawa, where fishhooks dating back some 23,000 years 
have been discovered [Credit: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum, via AFP]
They are of comparable age or older than similar fishhooks reported from the Pacific island of Timor, the researchers said in an article published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study also suggested that advanced maritime techniques existed in the Asia-Pacific much earlier than previously thought, Fujita said.

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

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

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

Source: AFP [September 19, 2016]

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