Archaeological Mystery

The Mystery of a 6,000-year-old Shark Fishing Hook in Israel

The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced the discovery of one of the oldest metal fishing hooks in the ancient Chalcolithic village of Ashkelon.

In a press release last week, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) stated that the fishing hook, made of copper, was perfectly preserved despite being 6,000 years old. It measures 6.5cm in length and 4cm in width.

A giant fishing hook unearthed in Chalcolithic Ashkelon, Israel

Researchers believe that this fishing hook was strong enough to catch fish up to 2-3 meters long, which corresponds to two shark species in the area, the dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscurus) and the sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus).

Located about 4km from the coastline, the remaining relics of the Chalcolithic period indicate that this was a village rich in agricultural resources, where people grew wheat, barley, beans, fruit trees, and raised livestock. They lived there for at least 600 years in houses clustered around three large stone structures, which may have been religious buildings. A few hundred meters away from the village was a metallurgy area where it was possible to produce a copper fishing hook.

Remains of Chalcolithic village buildings excavated in Ashkelo

According to the IAA, the new discovery is evidence that local inhabitants went out to sea and used the newly crafted giant fishing hook to supplement their diet with shark meat.

Previous archaeological evidence along the Israeli coast has also shown that sharks were caught for their meat, skin, and other valuable products. Many descriptions of sharks in ancient artwork and artifacts, such as pottery and mosaic, demonstrate their importance in the cultural and artistic heritage of ancient coastal communities.

In another case, archaeologists found shark teeth in a burial site dating back to the 5th century BC in Ashkelon, where the remains of a young woman were decorated with a necklace made of shark teeth.

On April 3, the Israel Antiquities Authority exhibited the shark fishing hook at the 48th Annual Archaeological Congress in the Givat Ram campus of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The conference is an annual event organized by the IAA, the Israel Exploration Society, and the Israel Archaeological Society.

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