Halibut Hook (USA), Created before 1881
This is a Halibut hook.
For centuries, indigenous Alaskan communities practiced sustainable fishing. Many rituals preceded the hunt, including praying for spiritual assurance that animals would return next season in abundance. Indeed, this ingenious and highly specialized fishhook was made as beautiful as possible in order to please the halibut spirit and suited exactly the behavior and anatomy of these bottom-feeding fish, which live as deep as 274.3 m (900 ft.).The size of the hook’s V-shaped gap determined the size of the catch, making it impossible to hook a halibut that a man couldn’t haul into his boat. Baited with octopus, the hook was anchored by stone sinkers and rose about 60 cm (2 ft.) off the sea floor. Sections of bull kelp knotted together provided flexible and nearly unbreakable lines. Bird-shaped floats were attached to the tops of the lines, and when a fish was hooked, its weight pulled the bird float upright, signaling a catch.
It is credited
Collection of John J. McLean, 1881, Baranof Island, Alaska, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E45990.
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Its dimensions are
H x W x D: 14 x 30 x 5 cm (5 1/2 x 11 13/16 x 1 15/16 in.)
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.