History of hook making
A gorge is usually considered as a forerunner
of hooks. It was a sick made of wood or bone, sharpened on both sides. When
a fish swallows bait with a gorge the line tightens and the gorge pierces
into its throat. It is not precisely clear how long this method was used to
catch fish, but eventually it was replaced with hooks that have distinctive
shape ever since.
It is estimated that the firs hooks appeared about 40000 years ago. They
were made of wood. A twig with a thorn or similar shaped pieces of wood
could easily be shaped into characteristic hook shape. Hawthorn spikes were
used for such purpose and possibly from other timber. Such hooks may be
almost as sharp as modern models, but wood is not very long lasting material
and that it why there are no preserved hooks of that type. However, in some
parts of the world such hooks remained in use almost to the modern ages, and
that is how we can see how they looked like. One example are hooks made by
Native Americans and are shown on the picture 1.
The basic idea defined when wood was
used was transferred to a new material, which was widely available – bone.
It cannot be precisely estimated when bone hooks were first used, but it was
probably around 20000 years ago. Although made from more resilient material,
bone hooks were found in just a few locations. The oldest were discovered in
Czech Republic, also in Palestine, Egypt, Norway but also in Serbia.
The oldest hooks discovered in Serbia were
located in Lepenski Vir (6-7000 years ago) and Vinča (5000 years ago). Both
locations were on the Danube banks. There was other fishing gear found along
with them, such as weights for nets and harpoons made from deer antlers. It
is amazing how sharp those hooks are even today. Lepenski Vir hooks can be
seen on picture 2, while Vinča hooks are on pictures 3 and 4, they are still
almost suitable for fishing. Their size varies from 4 to 15 cm. There are
interesting theories about those hooks. Particularly appealing is an
assumption that the bone hooks were specifically cooked in oils in order to
be harder and stronger, and there are some evidences which confirm it. Also,
it seems that the precisely defined pieces of bones were used, so that
always the needed shape is obtained. It is also very interesting to note
that on some of bone hooks found in Serbia there was pronounced barb, with
the purpose to prevent hook from slipping out of the fish mouth.
First metal hooks were made from
copper, which came into practice about 6000 years ago. Soon after that they
were made from bronze, which is much stronger alloy. Copper hooks were used
by Egyptians and people of Mesopotamia, about 4000 years ago. Numerous hooks
were discovered in those areas. Those hooks were barbless and simply shaped
in size between 2 and 6 cm. Old bronze hooks were discovered on Crete and in
Italy (Pompeii). Some of them were barbed. Some bronze hooks were discovered
near larger rivers of Serbia too, which is not surprising considering that
this area was quite populated in Roman times. The picture 5 shows some of
them, collected by our well known ichthyologist, the late Mihajlo Djonic.
During Roman times iron and steel
came to be used in hook making. In many places on the Balkan Peninsula
simple furnaces for processing raw iron were found. It was used for many
tools and weapons, and also for hooks. They were stronger than bronze hooks,
and were suitable for larger fish. Steel was even more stronger material,
but at the time it was as expensive as gold, and of very unpredictable
quality. Up until relatively recently it was not used for hook making, while
today all quality hooks are made of steel.
Hooks were home made at first –
each fisherman made his own hooks. In some areas this lasted until quite
recently. Specific hook makers appeared among blacksmiths who produced
various iron tackle. In some parts of Serbia still there are craftsman
capable of producing large but fine forged hooks for trophy sized catfish or
sturgeons of the Danube.
Goran Grubić and Aleksandar Panić, May 2004.