There’s nothing like a tunafish sandwich for lunch. In fact, man has apparently been dining on the big for more than 42,000 years according to a recent find of the world’s earliest known fish hooks.
The discovery of prehistoric fishing equipment and the remains of large fish (such as tuna) in a cave shelter known as Jerimalai, in East Timor shows that “humans fished the open sea for much longer than previously thought.
Although scientists have long known that “humans they were capable of crossing the open ocean as far back as 50,000 years ago (such as they did to colonize Australia), the oldest fishing gear found up until now dated back only 12,000.
“The island of Timor has very few terrestrial animals overall and only small birds call the island home, perhaps explaining why the ancient people here pursued fishing, speculated researcher Sue O’Connor, an archaeologist at Australian National University in Canberra commented during an interview with Live Science
She also noted that, “East Timor became a new independent nation in 1999 when they voted for independence from Indonesian rule. Most of the country’s infrastructure was destroyed when the Indonesians withdrew and tens of thousands of people were killed during the fight for independence. However, the country is rebuilding, and it never ceases to amaze me that people who have experienced so much hardship and who are so poor can be so generous,” she added. “I think working with the local East Timorese people who always assist my field team has been one of the most uplifting experiences of my life.”
The Jerimalai shelter site was initially uncovered in 2005. Since then O’Connor and other researchers have uncovered nearly 10,000 stone artifacts as well as hell beads, bone points, and the remains of animals including turtles, birds, bats and pythons, as well as fish. It was also noted that approximately 50% of the fish remains at Jerimalai were from species like tuna that live near the close to the surface of the ocean or deeper in the water
“Capturing such fast-moving fish requires a lot of planning and complex maritime technology, suggesting that early humans developed these skills earlier than previously thought. There is a lot of debate about whether or not early modern humans had the ability to hunt animals and fish that were difficult to capture,” O’Connor added. “I think the Timor evidence demonstrates that people definitely had this ability very early. It is not easy to catch tuna. In fact, it would require nets set in deep water.”
Modern anglers have plenty of opportunity to fish for their own tuna off the Connecticut coast aboard charter boats including Fishing Vessel Tuna in East Haddam, Bluefin Sportsfishing Charters in Clinton, CT and Southbound Charters in Waterford, just to name a few.
Editor’s note: More details of O’Connor’s report can be found in the Nov. 25 issue of the journal Science.