Deep Sea Fishing 42,000 Years Ago

This is such an incredible find, no it’s beyond incredible.
The first evidence of humans fishing using items like spears, was dated at around 12,000 years ago, when archaeologists discovered some spearheads that was used for fishing on the Channel Islands of California.
So obviously this new discovery found in East Timor is major.


The Jerimalai shelter during excavation (Image: Susan O’Conner)

Sue O’Connor from the Australian National University in Canberra with her colleagues excavated the Jerimalai Shelter at East Timor and discovered a treasure trove of artefacts. In the cave the archaeologists found over 38,000 fish bones dating back 42,000 years, some of these bones were from deep sea fish such as tuna. They found bone fish hooks dating back 11,000 years, but the archaeologists cannot explain how the deep sea fish were caught. Did these people have boats way back then that were able to go out onto the open sea?


A complete shell fish hook from the Pleistocene levels of a cave in East Timor (Image: Susan O’Conner)

  • If you would like to read about this find in East Timor there is an article in the
    Courier Mail.
  • If you would like to read more about the spearheads discoverd on the Channel Islands of California, I found an article in New Scientist.
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40 Responses to Deep Sea Fishing 42,000 Years Ago

  1. HolEssence says:

    Those fishing hooks are amazing! Sometimes I think the folks waaaaaaay back in the day had a lot more on the ball than we do 🙂

  2. malc50 says:

    “more than 38,000 fishbones from 2843 individual fish” – who would like the job of counting them? Cheers

  3. Rebekah says:

    It’s mind boggling..

  4. barb19 says:

    How interesting Mags – and right on our own doorstep, so to speak!
    I’d love to explore those caves . . .

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi barb19,
      On our doorstep is right, it really is a major discovery, a lot of text books will have to be rewritten. I also would love to have a real good look inside this cave, I think it would be a great experience.

  5. afrankangle says:

    Great stuff Mags. Of course a problem for the Creation Museum (which is located close to me) with its early Earth dating … Then again … I refuse to visit the place.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi afrankangle,
      It is all really amazing, I’m hoping more data will be released about the dig.

      The Creation Museum, is that the Museum that is somewhere in Kentucky?
      If so, I have heard about this so called Museum, it bases everything on the book of Genesis I was told. Should they be calling themselves a Museum? I myself have never seen it, only heard about it.

      • afrankangle says:

        Yep … that’s the place. If you are not familiar with the Cincinnati, Ohio area, the city is on the Ohio River and the metro area includes northern Kentucky, as well as part of Indiana. The Creation Museum is on the KY side, fairly close to the airport. An FYI: The founder and head is an Australian (Ken Ham). Heck, they even got the state of Kentucky to assist in funding an amusement park based on the Noah. Not sure when it is scheduled to open. That will simply be another place that won’t see a dime of my money.

        • magsx2 says:

          It seems on odd thing to do to actually call this place a Museum. From what I have heard it is not like any Museum I have ever seen. I love Museums, and no matter where we travel we always make sure we see the Museums in the area.

          I’m assuming there would be some disappointed people if they showed up there expecting to see what you would normally see in a Museum. I have never had the pleasure of seeing America unfortunately, so I’m not at all familiar with the area, I only heard about this through friends.

  6. Can you imagine the sheer excitement the team of archaeologists have knowing their discovery is so major. History altering, really.

    I’ve always thought it would be awesome to be an archaeologist but I wasn’t born with the patience gene. I have a hard enough time waiting for a light to turn green, let along sift and dig then count 1 fish, 2 fish……………! But I totally respect their profession and am thrilled for their find.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi EOSR,
      A career as an archaeologist would be great, finding items that have never before been seen by modern man, being and finding places that modern man has never walked, also a lot of hard work involved for everyone. I would of loved to have been able to do this, unfortunately never really thought about this when I was younger.

  7. Pingback: Pescatori in viaggio alla conquista dell’Australia « cautamente

  8. afrankangle says:

    PS: … which is one reason why I have written a fair number of posts about the interchange between religion and science (see the Categories in the sidebar).

  9. E.C. says:

    Truly a remarkable find. It’s interesting how they utilized such tools to catch fish. This is so neat. 🙂

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi E.C.,
      I doubt I would of thought of the idea of making hooks out of fish
      bones. 😀
      It does show that the people back then were thinking up ways of getting food easier. A lot of thought and ingenuity went into that one.

      • E.C. says:

        I do believe the ancestors of mankind were more clever and intelligent than some folks give them credit for. Finds like this prove that science has certainly underestimated a big portion of their smarts. 😉

  10. Kymbo says:

    I have no doubt that there are many incredible things yet to be discovered. Our ancestors were not tree swinging animals but smart and thinking beings…much smarted than the desk bound smart a…. that keep saying they were little more than animals…

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Kymbo,
      They were very smart, and the more that is found, the more we are finding out just how deep thinking our ancestors were.
      (Sorry I had to do a little edit on your comment, as I do have kids looking at some of the posts, I hope you understand.)

  11. travelrat says:

    If there were boats back then, it would certainly explain how the Aboriginal people came to Australia. As you probably know, that’s a question which has exercised many minds because Australia’s been an island since before Man learned to walk on his hind legs.

    Although I’m no expert, there are discoveries being made all over the place that seem to indicate early Man knew more stuff than we usually give him credit for.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi travelrat,
      I really have faith that one day, one of these boats that could travel in open seas will be found, after all there is more and more evidence that such a boat may have existed way back then, it’s just a matter of time. 🙂

  12. EternalForms says:

    That IS beyond incredible! What an amazing find!

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Eternal Forms,
      I’m sure there is a lot more to discover about our ancestors, but this find has turned what is written in history books upside down. 😀

  13. The thing that I love about archaeology is finding out how people lived in Historical times. It has always amazed me that we are so arrogant about people whom we consider to be “uncivilized” simply because they didn’t live in cities or build long-lasting houses. Look at how we Australians saw our Aboriginal peoples two hundred years ago; they didn’t build houses or cities but they had one of the richest spiritualities known to the world – which we immediately tried to stamp out of course. Just think how poorer the world is today because of our meddling. Just think what they could have taught us if we hadn’t looked at them without seeing them properly. And let us never forget what we’ve done to them.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Lady Marilyn,
      I think as years go on and more and more ancient sites are uncovered, we will learn that maybe ancient man was never really uncivilized, there was obviously a lot of very smart people on earth way back in ancient and modern history.

  14. souldipper says:

    This is really fascinating. Our Haida people used tree branches of various sizes to determine how big the catch could be. Ingenious, these indigenous people – but, it turns out, they were just doing what their ancestors did.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi souldipper,
      These archaeologists have really turned a lot of history on it’s head now with this discovery. Finding out what people were doing 42,000 years ago, and how they worked things out is just mind blowing. I have no doubt that as time goes on, we will learn more about ancient man.

  15. Red Nomad OZ says:

    Maybe there was an inland sea that long ago?? Whatever the reason, it IS incredible!

  16. dearrosie says:

    I’m still trying to digest the fact that they were somehow able to date the bones to 42 THOUSAND (sorry I had to shout) years ago. Good grief! Those archeologists have made the find of the century.

  17. Selma says:

    Staggering discovery. They must have had boats capable of going out into the open sea – how else would they have got the tuna – but the courage it would have taken to go out in the boats. Wow. I have such respect for ancient civilisations. We have it so easy in comparison.

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