Many readers know I am fascinated by fish hooks. The older the better has always been my theory when it comes to fish hooks, and recently, Swedish reader Patrik Lönell from Kalmar, Sweden sent me some pictures of a really great old fish hook that he graciously agreed to allow me to share with everyone.
This 1000-year old fish hook is approximately 4" long, and is made of hand forged iron. Patrik found it on the island of Öland in the Baltic Sea. Öland is famous for being the summer home of the Swedish royal family, and this narrow island, just four miles off the country's east coast, has been used by seafaring Swedes since the dawn of the iron age (Eketorp fort was excavated there in the 1960s and dates back to 400 a.d.). Today it is a popular tourist destination.
Like all early hooks (Patrik dates this to approximately 1000 a.d.), this would have been hand forged by a blacksmith, an arduous process basically unchanged from the time of the Romans up until the Kirby hook revolution of the early modern period. This is a large hook with a built-in swivel (an unusual addition) and would have been used with a hand-line for large cod and other fish. As Patrik declared, "Imagine a smith producing this hook with his bare hands!"
For most of us, a 100-year old fishing lure is ancient. But piscatorial artifacts such as this are so much older than what we normally come across that I think we have to reflect on just how rare such items actually are. Most reside in museums, and if you're lucky enough to own an Iron Age hook or a Native American fishing item, you are lucky indeed. Collecting early fishing artifacts is a frustrating and rewarding pursuit, but there is nothing like the thrill of finding a piece in the wild. My thanks to Mr. Lönell for sharing his field find with us!
-- Dr. Todd