Skip to comments.Missouri man reels in ancient fish hook
Posted on 01/03/2007 11:23:50 PM PST by FLOutdoorsman
COLUMBIA, Mo. - A man hunting for American Indian artifacts with his sons along a gravel bar on the Missouri River has uncovered an ancient fishhook that is making collectors envious.
"The first thing I thought is, 'I hope this isn't metal,'" said Eric Henley, who found the hook last month near McBaine. "When I picked it up, there was a pretty good jump for joy and a couple of 'whoops' and yells. It's the cream of the crop."
The hook is made of bone and covers his entire palm, making it much larger than most bone hooks.
Joe Harl, of the Archaeological Research Center of St. Louis, said the size of the hook suggests the fisherman who used it was after a larger fish.
Another artifact collector, Kenny Bassett, said the large size of the hook might indicate an earlier origin. American Indians used bigger rocks and tools in earlier periods to hunt larger game such as wooly mammoths. He said the hook could have been used to fish for pallid sturgeon or enormous catfish.
Bassett, who works with Henley, said he had to control his envy when he saw the oversized hook.
"I've been hunting" American Indian artifacts "for 30 years and never found anything so identifiably unique. I've never seen anything like it," Bassett said.
Because bone matter deteriorates rapidly, bone artifacts typically have to be buried deep enough in the ground to be preserved. And they are usually found during archaeological digs, said Bill Iseminger, assistant site manager at Cahokia Mounds State Historical Site in Illinois.
Harl said sandier soil in spots along the river might have kept the hook preserved. He said the hook could be anywhere from 300 to 12,000 years old.
Henley, a maintenance man at the University of Missouri-Columbia, has no plans to learn the hook's exact age. Carbon dating the item would require drilling through the fragile bone, and he doesn't want to risk ruining the hook.
Henley credits his sons, 11 and 6, for being good-luck charms because he made the discovery on the first trip the boys had joined their dad for an artifact hunt.
"Now every time I go, they're going to be there."
Now THAT is a fishin' trip!
I'd like to see a picture.
I also enjoy artifact hunting. I recently found a bone leather tool. (a dagger shape with a hole in the middle to hold the leather or twine) I suspect it was used for making teepees.
Since it's a bone fishhook, we just need to figure out when the bonefish went extinct. A flint fishhook, as you noted, would be fake, because the flintfish isn't in the Americas. ;')
[note: I'm not a fisherman, so if their are bonefish and flintfish, I wouldn't know]
Thanks, Liberty Valance, for the "how to" on making a deer bone fishhook!
Here's an interesting page on making a fishhook from antler, which is stronger (in tension) than bone -- and certainly stronger (in tension) than any knappable stone.
As a reasonably-competent flintknapper and lithic technologist, I'm sure I could make a 'flint' "fishhook" as nice as those for sale on e-bay. All it would take is a big flake of knappable stone, a deer "cannon bone" punch -- and a lot of patience and luck...
OTOH, (as a fisherman) I doubt I would make the effort because:
BTW, for those of you who are interested in such things the "Primitive Ways" website has lots of other neat "How to" stuff, as well...
Thanks! Soon, I'll check that link for more possible topics...
That is amazing preservation for bone recovered from a streambed. I'd really like to examine it with a microscope to see if it is antler, rather than bone.
Not trying to be a spoilsport, but I don't see how that polish could have survived several hundred years in a streambed -- what with gravel abrasion, acid rain, and such...
I can see why the guy was excited, though; that's a beautiful specimen.. And I can relate to his "I hope that's not iron" comment: I had the same reaction when the waves rolled a beautiful 5" Clovis point up at my feet on a public swimming beach on Lake Texoma on the TX/OK border. There had been a historic homesite on that site, and I thought at first that it was an old iron/steel knife blade or something...
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