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Photos: Ancient Woman Buried with Handmade Fishhooks

Time for Fishing

fishhook burial

(Image credit: Photograph by Sofía Samper Carro; as featured in Antiquity)

About 11,500 years ago, a high-status woman was buried in a cave with handmade fishhooks fashioned out of seashells. These artifacts, unearthed on the Indonesian island of Alor, are the oldest fishhooks on record found in a human burial, a new study reports.

The discovery suggests that women participated in fishing activities thousands of years ago. It also shows that the culture likely valued fishhooks and viewed them as essential for the transition to the afterlife, said study lead researcher Sue O'Connor, a professor in the School of Culture, History and Language at Australian National University. [Read the full story about the ancient fishhooks]

Island find

fishhook burial

(Image credit: Copyright Australian National University CartoGIS 160257 KD; as featured in Antiquity)

The archaeologists found the burial of the ancient woman in a rock shelter known as Tron Bon Lei, on the Indonesian island of Alor.

Skull and hook

fishhook burial

(Image credit: Photograph by Sofía Samper Carro, as featured in Antiquity)

The skull, likely that of an adult woman, was discovered in the rock shelter. A fishhook and pierced bivalve shell were found near her jaw.

Green island

fishhook burial

(Image credit: Putu Yuda (top); image from Samper Carro et al. 2016, reproduced with permission from Elsevier (bottom), as featured in Antiquity)

A view of the volcanic ridge (top) where Tron Bon Lei is located. The white arrow points to the rock shelter. A photo at the pit taken from the southern edge of the rock shelter is shown at the bottom of the image.

Four fishhooks

fishhook burial

(Image credit: Photograph by Sofía Samper Carro; as featured in Antiquity)

The four circular, rotating fishhooks (A, B, C and E) found within the burial. The discovery is the oldest burial with grave goods on an island in Southeast Asia on record.

J-shaped hook

fishhook burial

(Image credit: O'Connor S. et al./Antiquity 2017)

A J-shaped fishhook found in the Tron Bon Lei burial. The dotted lines show the probable shape of the shaft.

Pierced shell

fishhook burial

(Image credit: O'Connor S. et al./Antiquity 2017)

Archaeologists found a pierced shell belonging to the bivalve Vasticardium flavum in the burial. The shell was worn and rounded along the top.

[Read the full story about the ancient fishhooks]