Early line and hook fishing at the Epipaleolithic site of Jordan River Dureijat (Northern Israel)

Antonella Pedergnana, Emanuela Cristiani, Natalie Munro, Francesco Valletta and Gonen Sharon

Published: October 6, 2021 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257710

JRD Area D  – hook

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 3D images of the JRD hooks and small grooved pebbles


Nineteen broken and complete bone fish hooks and six grooved stones recovered from the Epipaleolithic site of Jordan River Dureijat in the Hula Valley of Israel represent the largest collection of fishing technology from the Epipaleolithic and Paleolithic periods. Although Jordan River Dureijat was occupied throughout the Epipaleolithic (~20–10 kya the fish hooks appear only at the later stage of this period (15,000–12,000 cal BP). This paper presents a multidimensional study of the hooks, grooved stones, site context, and the fish assemblage from macro and micro perspectives following technological, use wear, residue and zooarchaeological approaches. The study of the fish hooks reveals significant variability in hook size, shape and feature type and provides the first evidence that several landmark innovations in fishing technology were already in use at this early date. These include inner and outer barbs, a variety of line attachment techniques including knobs, grooves and adhesives and some of the earliest evidence for artificial lures. Wear on the grooved stones is consistent with their use as sinkers while plant fibers recovered from the grooves of one hook shank and one stone suggest the use of fishing line. This together with associations between the grooved stones and hooks in the same archaeological layers, suggests the emergence of a sophisticated line and hook technology. The complexity of this technology is highlighted by the multiple steps required to manufacture each component and combine them into an integrated system. The appearance of such technology in the Levantine Epipaleolithic record reflects a deep knowledge of fish behavior and ecology. This coincides with significant larger-scale patterns in subsistence evolution, namely broad spectrum foraging, which is an important first signal of the beginning of the transition to agriculture in this region.