Prehistoric Fishing along the Coasts of the Arabian Sea: A Short Overview from Oman, Balochistan and Sindh (Pakistan)

"The scope of this paper is to update and discuss the available evidence for prehistoric fishing along the Arabian Sea coasts of the Sultanate of Oman, Las Bela and Sindh in Pakistan," write the authors. By prehistoric they mean going back to at least the 7th millennium BCE (7000-6000 BCE), well before the ancient Indus civilization flourished. Nonetheless, fish were important nutrients for Indus peoples too, who also practiced coastal and inland (freshwater) fishing. Remnants of fishing include not only fish bones, but also tools used to sink nets, fish hooks, and even "the remains of an exceptionally well-preserved carbonized net made from leaves fibres at Shahi Tump in the Kech Valley of Balochistan, ca 120 km from the coast of Makran" (p. 22) in one case.

There are many interesting points made in this paper. "There are striking differences between the shell middens of the eastern periphery of the Arabian Peninsula and those of Las Bela [just west of Karachi and the greater Indus delta]" write the authors. Indeed, despite the fact that these two areas faced each across the Arabian sea and probably did interact when boats were blown of course or through travel, different areas developed practices unique to their areas and needs. What is also surprising is how many of these ancient shell middens (waste dumps where remnants of fishing-related activity are present) are still visible, on the surfaces near the coasts in all these areas. It takes highly trained archaeologists to find them, but that they still exist thousands of years later for our perusal as it were is truly remarkable.

Image: GAS-1 (Ash Shab, Oman): The prehistoric site from the south with the location of the two radiocarbon dated samples from soil (GX-17881: n. 1) and from shell hook (GrA-63871: n. 2) in the right, upper corner
(photograph by P. Biagi, January 1992).

First published in Tales of Three Worlds Archaeology and beyond: Asia, Italy, Africa A tribute to Sandro Salvatori, Archaeopress, Oxford, 2020