Navigation path

Headlines Published on 16 February 2012

Title Ancient tools discovery highlights fishing activity

Ancient fish seines and traps have been discovered in the Russian capital city of Moscow, a new international study reveals. Led by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the researchers have documented a series of equipment dating back more than 7 500 years. They say while it is very old, it shows a great technical complexity. This discovery provides insight into the role of fishing among the European settlements by the early Holocene epoch, some 10 000 years ago. The information will be especially useful for understanding the areas where inhabitants did not practice agriculture almost until the Iron Age.

Ancient fishing tools found in Russia © CSIC
Ancient fishing tools found in Russia

'Until now, it was thought that the Mesolithic groups had seasonal as opposed to permanent settlements,' says Dr Ignacio Clemente, a researcher at the CSIC. 'According to the results obtained during the excavations, in both Mesolithic and Neolithic periods, the human group that lived in the Dubna River basin, near Moscow, carried out productive activities during the entire year.'

Dr Clemente and colleagues say the inhabitants of this area, which is referred to as Zamostje 2, favoured summer and winter hunts during the Neolithic and Mesolithic periods. They hunted fish during spring and early summer periods, and harvested wild berries at the end of the summer season and during autumn.

'We think that the fishing played a vital role in the economy of these societies, ' says Dr Clemente, 'because it was a versatile product, easy to preserve, dry and smoke, as well as store for later consumption.'

Over 36 months of investigation, the researchers found everyday objects, such as plates and spoons, working tools, hunting weapons and fishing implements. All of these objects were made with flint and other stones, as well as bones and shafts.

'The documented fishing equipment shows a highly developed technology, aimed for the practice of several fishing techniques,' Dr Clemente explains. 'We can highlight the finding of two large wooden fishing traps (a kind of interwoven basket with pine rods used for fishing), very well preserved, dating back from 7 500 years ago. This represents one of the oldest dates in this area and, no doubt, among the best-preserved since they still maintain some joining ropes, manufactured with vegetable fibres.'

The team also found a number of objects related to the catching and processing of fish, including hooks, harpoons, weights, floats, needles for nets manufacture and repair, and moose rib knives to scale and clean the fish.

According to the researchers, one of the strange results of the Zamostje 2 site is the preservation of several organic materials like bones, wood, tree leaves and fossil faeces. This was especially the case for remains of fish.

'The ichthyological remains that we have found give us an idea of the protein percentage provided by fish in the diet of the prehistoric population,' the researchers says. 'Furthermore, these remains will help us to conduct a survey from the point of view of species classification, catch amount and size, and fishing season among others. These details are essential to be able to assess the role played by fishing in the economy of these human groups.'

Experts from France, Russia and Spain contributed to this study.

More information:

  • Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)