Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 4  September 2011

12,000-Year-Old Fishing Tackle Found in California
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California: Recently discovered artifacts in the Channel Islands are evidence that a seafaring, island-based Paleo-Indian population lived here 12,200-11,400 years ago.

Dozens of tools near marine and aquatic remains suggest these ancient people hunted birds, cormorants, finfish, shellfish, and marine mammals.

Jon Erlandson from the University of Oregon has been researching the islands for more than 30 years.

"This is among the earliest evidence of seafaring and maritime adaptations in the Americas, and another extension of the diversity of Paleo-Indian economies," Erlandson said.  "The points we are finding are extraordinary, the workmanship amazing. They are ultra thin, serrated and have incredible barbs on them. It's a very sophisticated chipped-stone technology."

The stemmed projectile points and crescents are made from chert, a flint-like stone. They range in size from small to large, suggesting they were used to hunt different animals.

"We think the crescents were used as transverse projectile points, probably for hunting birds," Erlandson said. "Their broad stone tips, when attached to a dart shaft, provided a stone age shotgun-approach to hunting birds in flight." 

Torben Rick is curator of North American Archaeology at the Smithsonian Institution. He says the data shows some of the earliest marine mammal and bird exploitation in North America, using specialized and sophisticated methods.

"The technology and seafaring implications of what we've found on the Channel Islands are magnificent," Rick said. "Some of the paleo-ecological and subsistence implications are also very important. These sites indicate very early and distinct coastal and island subsistence strategies, including harvest of red abalones and other shellfish and fish dependent on kelp forests, but also the exploitation of larger pinnipeds [marine mammals with flippers] and waterfowl, including an extinct flightless duck."


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