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Stone Age fishhooks - how were they dimensioned?: Morphology, strength test, and breakage pattern fo Neolithic bone fishhooks from Ajvide, Gotland, Sweden
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies.
Responsible organisation
2008 (English)In: Journal of Archaeological Science, ISSN 0305-4403, E-ISSN 1095-9238, Vol. 35, no 10, 2813-2823 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The late Stone Age Pitted Ware site at Ajvide, Gotland, in the Baltic Sea, Sweden, has revealed a large deposit of fishbone and approximately 400 bone fishhooks, complete and incomplete. Cod (Gadus morhua), which is one of the most abundant fish species in the bone assemblage, was probably caught with hook and line fishing. To investigate the fishhooks' field of application, a morphological and morphometric study was performed on 384 available hooks. Two sets of replicas made Of four selected Original fishhooks were submitted to a strength test. A breakage study of the incomplete hooks in comparison with the strength-tested hooks was carried out in order to distinguish fresh breaks from dry breaks. It seems that a certain morphology for fishhooks was preferred at Ajvide, indicating they were produced by skilled craftsmen for special usage. The strength test showed that the hooks had a weight bearing capacity more than the average size of cod caught at Ajvide. Using results of these tests, we predicted that the mean breaking Strength of 46 intact Ajvide hooks was 96.6 +/- 26.1 (s.d.) Newtons (equivalent to 9.85 +/- 2.7 kg). The design of fishhooks changed somewhat over time, being slightly larger in the oldest layers of the site. The breakage patterns of the hooks show that the bow was the most common area of breakage. The design and weight bearing capacity of the hooks point to a specialized cod fishery from boats in deep water.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 35, no 10, 2813-2823 p.
Keyword [en]
neolithic bone fishhooks, hook morphology, hook sizes, fish sizes, material strength test, breakage pattern
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-25488DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2008.05.009ISI: 000259266000015OAI: diva2:199824
Available from: 2008-10-02 Created: 2008-10-02 Last updated: 2012-11-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Neolithic Fisheries: Osteoarchaeology of Fish Remains in the Baltic Sea Region
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Neolithic Fisheries: Osteoarchaeology of Fish Remains in the Baltic Sea Region
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The variety of fish species found at the archaeological sites indicates the exploitation of local and regional ecosystems. The focus of the fisheries varies from site to site.

The study is based on the analyses of faunal materials from 10 archaeological sites from Eastern Middle Sweden, Gotland, and Åland dating to approximately 3800 – 1850 B.C. The mainland assemblages are mainly burnt and highly fragmented. When comparing burnt and unburnt bone materials, results showed a marked predominance of fish specimens within the unburnt assemblages. The burnt bone materials showed a striking preponderance of marine mammals. The burning process impairs identification and quantification of fishbone. Species presence per context complemented summary data and showed that low and medium frequency species were handled more often than summary data indicate. Intra-site studies of burnt bones demonstrated the importance of detailed studies of the taphonomic history of the faunal assemblages.

At Ajvide on the island of Gotland, large amounts of well preserved unburnt faunal remains, and ca. 600 bone fishhooks have been unearthed. Replicas of fishhooks from this assemblage were subjected to strength test, osteometric, morphological, and breakage studies. Results point to an elaborated fishing technology for capturing medium sized cod. Incremental studies of cod otoliths (ear stones) from Ajvide showed that most cod were captured in fall and winter. A comparison with the contemporaneous Jettböle site on the Åland islands, showed that in general smaller cod and herring were captured there.

The ecological conditions were somewhat different during the Neolithic. The growth pattern for cod indicate a more rapid growth for young cod but with a lower asymptotic length compared to modern cod.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Institutionen för arkeologi och antikens kultur, 2008. 52 p.
Theses and papers in osteoarchaeology, ISSN 1652-4098 ; 5
Neolithic fisheries, local and regional ecosystems, species variation, burnt and unburnt bones, representativeness, contextual quantification, fishing technology, spatial patterns
National Category
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-8215 (URN)978-91-7155-729-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2008-10-24, DeGeersalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 8A, Stockholm, 10:00
Available from: 2008-10-02 Created: 2008-10-02Bibliographically approved

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Olson, Carina
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