| 2 December 2011
Evidence of 42,000 year old deep sea fishing revealed
Prehistoric humans living more than 40,000 years ago had mastered the skills needed to catch fast-moving, deep-ocean fish, new archaeological finds reveal.
Jerimalai cave - a small rock overhang hidden behind foliage, a few hundred metres from the shore at the eastern end of East Timor - is where archaeologist Associate Professor Sue O'Connor from the Australian National University has unearthed the bones of more than 2,800 fish, some caught 42,000 years ago. "What the site has shown us is that early modern humans in island South East Asia had amazingly advanced maritime skills," she said, "it seems certain that these people were using quite sophisticated technology and watercraft to fish offshore".
So far, O'Connor and her colleagues have only excavated two small test pits, but in just one of those - 1 metre square and 2 metres deep - they found 39,000 fish bones along with a number of stone artefacts, bone points, animal remains, shell beads and fish hooks. They also unearthed a small piece of fishing hook made from shell between 23,000 and 16,000 years ago - the earliest example of a fishing hook ever found, the researchers say.
They are hopeful that more extensive excavations might reveal more hooks at the site. "I think Jerimalai gives us a window into what maritime coastal occupation was like 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, that we don't really have anywhere else in the world," Professor O'Connor said.
Edited from Science (24 November 2011), Radio Australia News, Mail Online (25 November 2011), Past Horizons (26 November 2011), The New York Times (28 November 2011)
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