Photo Credit: Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquity Authority
Dr. Yael Abadi-Reiss holding the 6,000-year-old copper fishing hook.

A 6,000-year-old copper fishing hook—one of the oldest known in the world—which was possibly used for fishing sharks or similar very large fish, was discovered in Israel Antiquity Authority excavations that were carried out before the construction of the new Agamim neighborhood in Ashkelon in 2018.

The find, presented today for the first time, will be exhibited in April at the 48th Archaeological Congress, organized by the IAA, the Israel Exploration Society, and the Israeli Archaeological Association.

The 6,00-year-old copper fishing hook. / Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquity Authority

According to Dr. Yael Abadi-Reiss, co-director of the IAA excavation together with Dr. Daniel Varga, “this unique find is 6.5 cm long and 4 cm wide, its large dimensions making it suitable for hunting 2–3 m long sharks or large tuna fish. More ancient fishing hooks found previously were made of bone and were much smaller than this one. The use of copper began in the Chalcolithic period and it is fascinating to discover that this technological innovation was applied in antiquity for the production of fishing hooks for fishermen along the Mediterranean coast.”

During the Chalcolithic period, there were large villages around Ashkelon, whose economy was based on areas of agriculture that are still common today, such as raising sheep, goats, and cattle, cultivating wheat, barley, and legumes, and growing fruit orchards.

The excavation that the IAA held in Ashkelon (2018). / Yael Abadi-Reiss, Israel Antiquity Authority 

“We learn about the dietary habits of the people who lived here 6,000 years ago from the remains of animal bones found in ancient rubbish pits, from burnt wheat grains found in ovens, and from the retrieved hunting, cooking, and food-processing tools, including flint sickles, as well as a variety of pottery vessels that served for storing, cooking and the conserving food by fermentation and salting,” says Dr. Abadi-Reiss, adding: “The rare fishing hook tells the story of the village fishermen who sailed out to sea in their boats and cast the newly invented copper fishing hook into the water, hoping to add coastal sharks to the menu.”

Dr. Yotam Asscher of the IAA and Magda Batiashvilli have examined the fishing hook, using advanced technologies.


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