Excavation site in East Timor
Man engaged in deep sea fishing over 40,000 years ago.
(PhysOrg.com) -- An archaeologist from The Australian National University has uncovered the world’s oldest evidence of deep sea fishing for big fish, showing that 42,000 years ago our regional ancestors had mastered one of our nation’s favourite pastimes.
Professor Sue O’Connor of the College of Asia and the Pacific at ANU, also found the world’s earliest recorded fish hook in her excavations at a site in East Timor. The results of this work are published in the latest issue of Science.
The finds from the Jerimalai cave site demonstrate that 42,000 years ago our regional ancestors had high-level maritime skills, and by implication the technology needed to make the ocean crossings to reach Australia.
“The site that we studied featured more than 38,000 fish bones from 2,843 individual fish dating back 42,000 years,” said Professor O’Connor.
“What the site in East Timor has shown us is that early modern humans in Island Southeast Asia had amazingly advanced maritime skills. They were expert at catching the types of fish that would be challenging even today – fish like tuna. It’s a very exciting find.”
Professor O’Connor also uncovered the world’s oldest fish hook, which dates from a later period.
“We found a fish hook, made from a shell, which dates to between 23,000 and 16,000 years ago. This is, we believe, the earliest known example of a fish hook and shows that our ancestors were skilled crafts people as well as fishers. The hooks don’t seem suitable for pelagic fishing, but it is possible that other types of hooks were being made at the same time.”
What’s still unknown is how these ancient people were able to catch these fast-moving deep-ocean fish.