Saturday, May 03, 2008

First evidence of shell fish-hook technology in the Persian Gulf

A new article is out on the discovery of shell fish hooks in the Arabian Gulf (Persian Gulf). Previously shell fish hooks had been discovered at Indian Ocean sites on the Arabian peninsula but not in the Gulf. Here is the abstract of the article.

First evidence of shell fish-hook technology in the Gulf

Authors: Méry, Sophie1; Charpentier, Vincent1; Beech, Mark2

Source: Arabian archaeology and epigraphy, Volume 19, Number 1, May 2008 , pp. 15-21(7)

Publisher: Blackwell Publishing


The technology of shell fish-hooks and line fishing is well attested in the coastal areas of the Indian Ocean during the Neolithic period (fifth-fourth millennium BC). Their presence in the coastal area of the Arabian Gulf is now confirmed by new findings from Akab (Umm al-Qaiwain) and Shimal (Ra's al-Khaimah) in the United Arab Emirates.

One of the article's authors, Mark Beech, wrote an article, The Development of Fishing in the U.A.E.: A Zooarchaeological Perspective, in which he compares the use of shell fish hooks in the Gulf with practices in the Pacific (without suggesting direct links).

Shell fish hooks are found in the Neolithic kits of Insular Southeast Asia especially in Taiwan and Timor, but are more abundant in Oceania. The word "fish-hook" has been reconstructed in Proto-Austronesian as *kauil and in Proto-Malayo-Polynesian as *kawil.

Beech, citing Charpentier and Méry (1997), notes that the limestone tools found at apparent shell fish hook workshops in Oman resemble tools used for the same purpose in Polynesia at a much later period. He quotes Sir Joseph Banks' observation on the island of Tahiti:

. . . the shell is first cut by the edge of another shell
into square pieces. These are shaped with files of coral,
with which they work in a manner surprising to any one
who does not know how sharp corals are. Ahole is then
bored in the middle by a drill [. . .] the file then comes
into the hole and completes the hook . . .’

(Best 1929: 32–3)

Other similarities between the shell mound fishing cultures of Oman and the Arabian Gulf with those of the Pacific and Southeast Asia, although of different chronology, include the use of gorges and lures, and stone wall fish corrals. In both regions, we find that Neolithic cultures also practiced sea mammal hunting.

Paul Kekai Manansala