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Sep 22, 2015 12:47 PM EDT

Salmon Fishing in North America Dates Back to Last Ice Age, Oldest Instance on Record


People alive during the ast Ice Age fished and ate salmon more than 10,000 years ago, making it the oldest evidence of such activity on record.

According to The New York Times, a team of researchers discovered salmon remains dating back about 11,500 years, but the fish were found in what was apparently a cooking hearth. Discovered in the Upward Sun River in central Alaska, the findings were detailed in a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Salmon fishing has deep roots, and we now know that salmon have been consumed by North American humans at least 11,500 years ago," study lead author Carrin Halffman, an anthropologist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, said in a press release.

The findings also have implications for the evolution of salmon migration, as their patterns may date back to the last Ice Age, also called the Pleistocene epoch.

"We have cases where salmon become landlocked and have very different isotopic signatures than marine salmon. Combining genetic and isotopic analyses allow us to confirm the identity as chum salmon, which inhabit the area today, as well as establish their life histories," Ben Potter, another UAF anthropologist, said in the release. "Both are necessary to understand how humans used these resources."

The earliest known instance of salmon fishing in North America, the new findings could suggest the continent's earliest settlers consumed the fish and possibly used it for trading and bartering as well.

"We're very excited to get this first evidence," Potter told The Times. "We don't know at this point how much they were using it."

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