Okinawa Island is known for three things: housing an American military base established following the conclusion of World War II, being the home of one of the longest-living populations of people in the world and having been a difficult place to live during the Paleolithic era. However, thanks to a recent discovery, while the first two facts still hold true, researchers are now questioning preconceived notions surrounding the third.

During an archaeological dig in Sakitari Cave on Okinawa Island, researchers uncovered fish hooks crafted from the shells of sea snails about 23,000 years ago, making them the oldest fish hooks in the world.

So, what makes this discovery so significant? Well, the presence of such artifacts suggests a more complex maritime technology in prehistoric Okinawa than what researchers believed had existed at the time.

As detailed by study co-author Masaki Fujita, humans are believed to have crossed into Australia about 50,000 years ago, but evidence of objects such as fish hooks appeared to only be present in that continent and a group of islands known as Wallacea — a group of mainly Indonesian Islands — for much of the Paleolithic era.

This meant that people on Okinawa Island would have had a difficult time living on the island. Without fish hooks, how would a population living on a resource-poor island in the Pacific survive for an extended period of time? Now, as it turns out, they most certainly had the tools needed for survival.

"Our findings suggest that Paleolithic people had adapted their maritime technologies to live not only in Wallacea and Australia, but a much wider geographic zone," said Fujita.

Interestingly enough, fish hooks weren't the only things uncovered. During their fieldwork, not only did researchers find the remains of small animals, but they also came across evidence suggesting residents were actually picky about what they ate.

For example, they found evidence that many of the crabs eaten in the cave were eaten during the fall, when they were at "their most delicious," rather than when they became available. This means that not only did the residents on Okinawa Island manage to survive there, they thrived.

Here's the kicker: based on all the evidence, researchers believe humans could have lived on Okinawa for roughly 35,000 years.

Even with this monumental discovery, Fujita notes there is still plenty of work ahead of them.

"We found fish and human bones that dated back some 30,000 to 35,000 years," Fujita said. "We don't know what kind of tools were used to catch these fish, but we're hoping to find some even older fishing tools."

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