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23,000-Year-Old Fish Hooks Unearthed in Japan

23,000 fish hooks
Okinawa Prefectural Mueseum and Art Mueseum

Scientists have discovered the oldest known fish hooks in Okinawa, Japan.

While searching the Sakitari Cave in Japan, researchers found a pair of what appeared to be earrings. Further investigation led to the discovery of the world’s oldest known fishing gear: two hooks used to catch fish nearly 23,000 years ago.

The pair of hooks are much older than the ones found in Timor and Papua New Guinea, and could be so well-made that they’re likely still functional. The discovery means that maritime technology developed in Asia-Pacific much earlier than previously thought.

The fish hooks were carved out of sea shells. Which begs the question how are 23,000 year old hooks made out of sea shells still functional when I have to throw out half of mine at the end of a season? They were also found around charred remains of food such as birds and frogs. The food served as a clue that the items were in fact fish hooks.

This discovery demonstrates the adaption of paleolithic humans, demonstrating the ability to develop maritime technology that would lead to human expansion across different regions. Researchers have also proposed that early humans visited this cave seasonally when the crab in the area where at their best tasting.

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23,000-Year-Old Fish Hooks Unearthed in Japan