At first sight, they could pass for a pair of shell earrings but these items are far more significant - and were once more practical.

Archaeologists have found the world's oldest fish hooks in a cave on Okinawa in Japan, the BBC and Guardian report.

They say the hooks - made from sea snail shells - date to 23,000 years ago.

"The new evidence demonstrates a geographically wider distribution of early maritime technology that extended north to the mid-latitude areas along the western Pacific coast," according to the National Academy of Sciences.


The Asia/Oceania regions are significant when it comes to evidence of how fishing evolved.

The BBC reports that the Okinawa fish hooks are older than ones found in Indonesia (16,000 years old) and Papua New Guinea (18,000).

Humans are believed to have inhabited Okinawa from at least 30,000 years ago, the BBC says. Also in the cave were two partially carved fish hooks, tools, beads and food debris.

The Guardian says Japanese scientists have been excavating three areas of the Sakitari cave, a limestone structure, since 2009. Their findings have been published in the PNAS journal.

Inside the cave were evidence of charred eels, frogs, birds and small mammals.

The paper's authors say that those who visited the cave did so seasonally, when certain species of crab were at their "most delicious", the BBC reports.

- Herald Online