The men above may not appear to be fishing, but they are. They’re setting up a weir. It’s not the most efficient way to make a catch, especially not compared to modern techniques. But they’re simple and effective. A V-shaped obstruction blocks off the mouth of a river or tidal passage, letting fish in, but preventing them from escaping. After that its simply a matter of scooping them up.
Weirs are still widely used in survival, subsistence, or sustainable fishing situations. Although that’s not to say they can’t be detrimental to fish populations. A specific measure of the Magna Carta actually bans the use of weirs in English rivers after the inland fish populations suffered. Parliament passed a measure in 1861 extending this judgment throughout the UK, although older weirs could stay.
And old weirs exist. In addition to pre-Christian structures found throughout Europe, ancient weirs have also been found in the Americas. The Mnjikaning Fish Weirs are one of the oldest human structures in Canada, predating the Cheops pyramids. And there are even older structures, giant earthen causeways across the Amazonian savannah, that date back as far as 12,000 BC. The researcher who detailed them says that earthworks of this scale must have been tended by a multi-generational group, who likely had highly specialized knowledge.
Weirs keep cropping up all over the place. Weir’d.