6,000-year-old fishing hook — used for catching sharks — unearthed near Israeli coast

·2 min read

You cast out a fishing line and wait for a tug. When it comes, so does the excitement.

What did you catch? How big is the fish? Will you be able to reel it in easily or will it put up a fight? The draw to go fishing — and the goal of snagging a big catch — isn’t new.

As archaeologists in Israel were recently reminded, people have been angling for big fish for millennia.

And sometimes, that includes a shark biting on the other end.

While excavating a site along the Mediterranean coast, archaeologists unearthed a fishing hook, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a Wednesday, March 29, news release via YouTube. The copper hook had weathered over time and took on a blue-green color, photos show.

At 6,000 years old, the metal artifact was “one of the oldest known” fish hooks, experts said.

The hook sitting next to seashells.
The hook sitting next to seashells.

The copper hook “was made for the fishing of sharks,” Yael Abadi-Reiss, co-director of the excavation, said in the video. About 2.5 inches long and 1.5 inches wide, the hook’s “large dimensions” made it “suitable for hunting 2–3 meter (6 to 10 feet) long sharks or large tuna fish,” she said.

“More ancient fishhooks found previously were made of bone and were much smaller than this one,” Abadi-Reiss said.

The coastline of Ashkelon near the excavation area.
The coastline of Ashkelon near the excavation area.

The copper hook was made by a Chalcolithic village near Ashkelon, about 35 miles southwest of Tel Aviv, the release said. Six thousand years ago, the village’s economy was mainly based on agriculture crops and herding “sheep, goat and cattle,” the release said.

As metalworking technologies developed, the villagers took advantage of their proximity to the coast.

“From time to time,” Abadi-Reiss said, “they went to the sea in their boats to the deep water in the time when the sharks are coming closer using this nice, very special hook to get themselves a shark.”

The excavation area with the coastline in the background.
The excavation area with the coastline in the background.

The copper hook was found in 2018 ahead of construction of a new neighborhood, but the find was only recently announced, officials said.

The artifact will be on display at the 48th Archaeological Congress, an April 3 event organized by the Israel Antiquity Authority, the Israel Exploration Society and the Israeli Archaeological Association.

Research on the copper fishing hook is still ongoing.

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