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STONE AGE SURF 'N' TURF IN ISRAEL


With much of the globe shivering under belting Ice Age wind and snow, over 15,000 years ago a band of nomads enjoyed a sure-fire source of rich food – above and below the water – in Israel’s Upper Jordan Valley. The Hula lake’s natural bounty was so enticing that prehistoric groups made regular trips to the shores of Dureijat.

Beneath the ancient mud banks, a team led by Professor Gonen Sharon from Tel-Hai College in Israel, uncovered proof that the lakesiders were specialist fishermen. Bones from abundant marine life were caught using remarkably modern-looking fishing hooks and net-sinkers. The fishermens' knowledge became more sophisticated over time until “they knew which hooks and instruments were more fit to capture different species of fish,” Professor Sharon said.

The ancient shore turned out to be littered with limestone rocks used as fishing line weights or net sinkers – the largest collection in the Levant. Between 21,514 and 12,150 ago, their technology changed to notched sinkers adapted to hold a net line. Later, 14,960 years Before Present, sophisticated bone fishhooks appeared in the Natufian levels, which “demonstrate a high level of knowledge, dexterity, and sophistication”. Each hook is unique in shape, size and design and would have been tied to a fine rope for line fishing.


The freshwater fare ranged from catfish and trout to giant carp 2.5 metres long. Another part of this revolution in feasting was an endless supply of giant freshwater Unio mussel shells. Prof. Sharon told Wreckwatch he is “convinced they were eaten: they are easy to collect, have high nutrition values and we know people still eat them today or turn them into sauce.”


The excavations are sending a ripple of excitement through prehistory.


Photos courtesy of Professor Gonen Sharon, Tel-Hai College, Israel.

See Wreckwatch issue 1, out on 1 September, for the full story.

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