Archaeological shell fishhooks
What is the project about?
The project “Shell fishhook Culture: middle Holocene fishing technology on Choromytilus chorus shells along the north coast of Chile” is funded by the Agencia Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo (ANID), and studies archaeological fishhooks used by fisher communities along the coast of Chile (18-30 °S). Our research questions seek to explore the antiquity of this technology, the manufacturing process, and its efficiency in different habitats and for different types of prey. The present research will enrich our knowledge about the development of this ancient fishing technology in South America and will provide with valuable information about the long-term history of fishing communities.
Why is it important?
One of the oldest fishing technologies
Shell fishhooks are one of the first specialized fishing technologies around the world and have been recorded in archaeological sites along the coast of Chile and the Pacific coast of America. Investigating the characteristics of this technology in Chile will provide information to comparable with other places around the Pacific.
New insights from museum collections
Museums contained archaeological objects found in excavations carried out long time ago, or from archaeological sites that no longer exist due to natural erosion or human actions. As our study focused on archaeological fishhooks held in Chilean museums, we are proud to take advantage of the cultural heritage safeguarded in these institutions, which hold valuable information about our fishing past.
Ethno-archaeology of shell fishhooks
In order to evaluate archaeological interpretations about shell fishhooks, we are replicating the process of manufacturing these artifacts in the present. With the obtained replicas, we will also asses our ideas about how hooks were used, through experimental fishing. These activities will enrich archaeological interpretations of past fisher communities and will strengthen present communities’ ties to their cultural identity and territories.
Analyzes carried out to study archaeological shell fishhooks: 1) radiocarbon dating to estimate the antiquity of the hooks, 2) isotopic analysis of Oxygen 18 and Carbon 13 to explore past oceanographic conditions of Choromitylus chorus´ habitats, and 3) morphometric analysis to explore variation in the shape of this artefacts. In this way, technological and functional aspects of fishhooks will be evaluated through a detailed analysis of samples located in repositories of regional and national museums.