Manufacturing Stages of Bone Fishhooks from Latimer County Site
Bone fishhooks are rare artifacts in Oklahoma although several examples are known. They have been found in sites of the Washita River focus and at Lt-11, the McCutchan-McLaughlin site in Latimer County. The specimens from Lt-11 in eastern Oklahoma, which were just recently recovered, date approximately 2000 years ago.
There are two sizes of bone fishhooks represented: a small one measuring about 20 mm or less in length, and a larger one measuring about 45 mm in length. Examples of these are illustrated in Figure 32. None of these have barbs, but this lack of barbs is typical of Indian bone fishhooks. The fishhooks are alike except for the difference in size.
The Lt-11 fishhooks have a groove or string-tie cut in the top of the hook shank. One of the small specimens (Figure 32c) appears to lack this groove but the hook shank is slightly expanded at the top to make attachment of the line secure. The known examples of fishhooks from the Washita River focus sites do not have this grooved shank and are more similar in size to the larger examples from Lt-11.
Some unfinished specimens from Lt-11 suggest the method of manufacture. The large sized fishhooks were apparently made from a flat rectangular section of bone. This was roughly shaped to form the rectangle
bone preform which was then rubbed and abraded in the center on both sides to remove an oval shaped perforation in the center. The bone was then cut on each side of the perforation so that two fishhooks could be made from the single preform. The hooks were then ground and shaped into the desired final form by scraping or the use of an abrader.
The smaller fishhooks appear to have been made from bird bone following a similar process. Examples of fishhook preforms in the various stages of manufacture are shown in Figure 32f-h.
Broken specimens are normally more common than whole specimens. The fishhook usually breaks at the curved section (Figure 32e) which is the weakest part of the bone. On specimens illustrated, this area has been purposely made thicker than the bone shank to strengthen this section.
The presence of bone fishhooks indicates hand-line fishing, which was probably more common than we realize. Fishhooks were also made of shell, especially along the Pacific coast, but shell fishhooks have not been found in Oklahoma. Chipped flint fishhooks can be seen in many artifact collections, but to my knowledge they have never been found in excavations. The flint fishhook has been a popular "fake" since 1890.