World's oldest fish hooks found in Japanese island cave

image copyrightNational Academy of Sciences
image captionThe two fish hooks are made from sea snail shells

Archaeologists have found the world's oldest fish hooks in a cave on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

The pair, dating from about 23,000 years ago, were carved from sea snail shells and found with other ancient relics, according to a paper.

It is thought humans inhabited the island from at least 30,000 years ago, surviving despite scarce resources.

The findings suggest a wider use of advanced maritime technology in that era than previously thought.

Modern humans first moved to offshore islands some 50,000 years ago.

While fishing has been essential for early humans to spread around the planet, it is unclear how the technology evolved, with evidence limited to sites in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

"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 fish hooks predate ones found in Timor, thought to be at least 16,000 years old, and Papua New Guinea, from at least 18,000 years ago.

Also found in the cave were two partially carved fish hooks, tools, beads and food debris.

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

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