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THE EARLIEST SHELL FISHHOOKS FROM THE AMERICAS REVEAL FISHING TECHNOLOGY OF PLEISTOCENE MARITIME FORAGERS

  • Matthew R. Des Lauriers (a1), Loren G. Davis (a2), J. Turnbull (a3), John R. Southon (a4) and R. E. Taylor (a5)...

Abstract

While the North American archaeological record signals the presence of early humans along the northeastern Pacific coast by the Late Pleistocene, we know little about the technological systems employed by these coastally oriented colonizing groups. We here report the discovery of the earliest unequivocal evidence for the use and manufacture of shell fishhooks in the western hemisphere. Four single-piece shell fishhooks dating to the terminal Pleistocene/early Holocene transition (between ~11,300 and 10,700 cal B.P.) have been excavated on Isla Cedros, Baja California, Mexico. One hook is directly dated at 9495 ± 25 B.P. with a marine reservoir–corrected age of 11,165–9185 cal B.P. Radiocarbon ages associated with three other shell fishhooks range between 8900 ± 25 B.P. and 10,415 ± 25 B.P, while median ages for the earliest contexts confirm occupation of the island by at least 12,600–12,000 cal B.P. The stratigraphic levels from which the fishhooks were recovered contained a diverse assemblage of fish remains, including deepwater species, indicative of boat use. Thus, some of the earliest known inhabitants of the Pacific coast of the Americas employed shell hook and line technology for offshore marine fishing at least by the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, if not earlier.

La colonización humana de América ha sido un tema central de investigación desde los principios de la arqueología en el continente. En los últimos 20 años, arqueólogos que trabajan en preguntas relacionadas con el poblamiento de Norte y Sudamérica han demostrado la plausibilidad de una entrada inicial desde Asia por medio de una ruta costera en el Pacifico septentrional. Sin embargo, hasta la fecha no se habían documentado tecnologías diseñadas específicamente para el aprovechamiento de recursos marinos fuera de la costa que tuvieran una antigüedad suficiente para corresponder al poblamiento inicial del continente. Aquí reportamos el hallazgo de la evidencia inequivocable más temprana para la manufactura de anzuelos de concha en el hemisferio occidental. Tres anzuelos de concha de una sola pieza que fechan para la transición entre el Pleistoceno terminal y el Holoceno temprano (aproximadamente 11,300–10,700 cal a.P.) han sido recuperados en dos depósitos arqueológicos ubicados en Isla Cedros, Baja California, México. Un anzuelo produjo una fecha directa de 9495 ± 25 a.P., con una edad corregida por efecto de reservorio marino (ΔR = 150 ± 400 años 14C) y calibrada al rango de 11,165–9185 cal a.P. (2 sigma). Fechas 14C obtenidas de muestras de concha marina y carbón asociadas estratigráficamente con tres anzuelos adicionales tienen un rango entre 8900 ± 25 a.P. y 10,415 ± 25 a.P., mientras que las fechas 14C promedio para las capas más tempranas en el sitio de Richard's Ridge confirman que la primera ocupación de la isla tiene una antigüedad de más de 12,000 años antes del presente. En las capas estratigráficas bien definidas donde hallamos los anzuelos, también encontramos un conjunto variado de restos de pescados que incluyen especies de aguas profundas, lo que indica el uso de embarcaciones. Inferimos que algunos de los primeros habitantes de la costa pacifica de América usaron tecnología de anzuelo y sedal para la pesca marina fuera de la costa por lo menos hacia la transición entre el Pleistoceno y el Holoceno, si no antes.

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Corresponding author

(mdeslaur@csun.edu, corresponding author)

References

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