Spearfishing – Approx. 14000 B.C.
This week’s Throwback Thursday explores the incredible history of spearfishing! Humankind has hunted oceanic and river wildlife with sharpened stakes and harpoons since the Paleolithic Era. Sixteen-thousand year old European Stone Age cave-drawings have detailed scenes of aquatic mammals and fish being speared for sustenance.
Early fishing spears were made from stone or flint and usually strung with sinew or animal hair then attached to a sturdy wooden pole. Hunters would generally fish by boat or wading in shallow waters with a source of light in order to illuminate the fish’s location in the murky depths.
Moving ahead to the Greco-Roman Era, iron harpoons and tridents were widely used throughout the ancient world, from the Mediterranean coast to the banks of the Nile. Neptune, or Poseidon, the classical god of the sea and water, famously carried his epoch trident and was feared by nearly all Ancient Greeks and Romans living along the sea. Greek historians Polybius and Oppian described spearfishing in their writings, including traditional gigging tactics – the practice of using a small multi-pronged spear to hunt small marine life.
The fishing spear or trident became a common sight across the Roman Empire (27 B.C. – 395 A.D.), even being wielded in gladiatorial matches for sport fighting. In the east, primitive Indian and Indonesian tribes commonly used copper harpoons with long chords to fish ancient waterways.
Spearfishing and gigging remained almost completely unchanged for almost twenty-millennia, until the advent of the rubber/pneumatic spear gun. However, the ancient practice of spear fishing continued in popularity during the first half of the 20th century, especially on the Italian and French coasts where European sport fisherman would dive without breathing apparatuses and carried no more than crude swimming goggles and a harpoon.
Spearfishing is highly prohibited in many areas throughout the world, and only allowed to be practiced in certain seasons. That being said, there are many individuals that continue to legally spearfish as a means of livelihood in tropical regions, where fish in shallow waters are plentiful.
The PAST Antiques Marketplace houses several fishing and maritime spears for sale and on permanent display, including a 19th century wrought iron eel spear, featuring a five-pronged spear head, forged entirely in one piece of iron. To learn more about the history of spearfishing and explore our incredible selection of antiques and vintage collectibles visit The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut!
Check back next week for another Throwback Thursday!