A stash of 29 “out of place” 80-million-year-old shark teeth have been discovered at a 2,900-year-old site in the City of David neighborhood in Jerusa
A stash of 29 “out of place” 80-million-year-old shark teeth have been discovered at a 2,900-year-old site in the City of David neighborhood in Jerusalem, Israel. The find has challenged scientists as the ancient teeth were discovered over 50 miles (80 km) away from where such fossils are generally discovered. Archaeologists used isotopic dating to determine that the shark teeth were 80 million years.
But the big question is, How on Earth did such a curious collection of objects get from the desert to the Holy City? Whatever the answer, it certainly appears that the Iron Age site where the teeth were discovered was a place where fossilized shark tooth trading thrived or certainly existed.
A closeup (from the Frontiers journal study) of one of the 29 ancient shark teeth found in an Iron Age Palestinian site in the City of David neighborhood in east Jerusalem. (Omri Lernau / Frontiers journal )
Shark Teeth Collectors Of The Ancient World?
A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution tells the story of the “unexplained cache of fossilised shark teeth ” that were discovered at a 2,900-year-old site in the City of David, Jerusalem.
Lead researcher, Dr Thomas Tuetken at the University of Mainz in Germany, says the ancient predator’s teeth were found along with discarded fish bones and infill material, including pottery, at an ancient house called the “Rock Cut Pool.” Today, this large Iron Age house is in the largely Palestinian village of Silwan in east Jerusalem.
The teeth showed no signs of having been worn as jewelry, or having been used as tools, but they were found with hundreds of “ bullae,” which were used to seal confidential communications and parcels. The researchers think this indicates a connection with the administrative or governing class.
Dr Tuetken says the shark teeth were brought to Jerusalem during “a period of riches in the Judean Court” and his fellow researchers concluded that like the modern market for shark teeth, there seems to have been an “Iron Age trend for collecting such items.”
This Squalicorax pristodontus shark tooth was found in the desert of Morocco in 1843 AD but we really don’t know how it may have been valued in the Neolithic period or the Iron Age. Based on the latest study it would seem collection and trading of such rare things wasn’t all that uncommon thousands of years ago. (Parent Géry / CC BY-SA 3.0 ).
Blasting Ancient Shark Teeth With Science
The team of researchers used “strontium and oxygen isotope dating techniques, as well as x-ray diffraction and trace element analysis,” to age and to determine the origins of the fossilized teeth. Dating back 80 million years, the researchers say the fossils were found in the desert at least 50 miles (80 km) from where they were originally discovered.
Attempting to offer reason as to “why” the shark teeth were taken from the desert to the City of David , the researchers say they must have been “collectors’ items, before the birth of Jesus Christ.” In a Daily Mail article Dr. Tuetken said his team’s working hypothesis is that the teeth “were brought together by collectors, but we don’t have anything to confirm that.”
Several species of shark’s teeth were present in the collection including some from the Late Cretaceous group Squalicorax, which grew to between 6.5 and 16 feet (2 and 5 meters) long. The paper explains that the teeth “were not simply weathered out of the bedrock beneath the site” and that they were more probably transported from afar, possibly from the Negev, at least 80 km away from Jerusalem where similar fossils are often discovered.
While their age has been established as around 80 million years old, the actual circumstances leading up to their arrival in the City of David “may forever remain a mystery,” said Dr. Tuetken in the new paper.
While this is indeed a rare find, it is not unique. The same team have found other shark teeth fossils at the Maresha and Miqne sites in Israel and in both instances these shark teeth fossils were unearthed in and transported from distant deserts. What is emerging here is the possibility that the ancient trade for shark teeth was not all unusual in the Iron Age territory that would later be called the Holy Land.
Top image: An artist’s (Dimtry Bogdanov) depiction of a dead Hadrosaur claosaurus dinosaur floating in the Western Interior Sea of Kansas during the Cretaceous period with two Squalicorax sharks circling around it. The shark teeth found in the City of David (Jerusalem) and also in other Middle Eastern deserts, like those in Morocco, were from this very species! Source: Dmitry Bogdanov / CC BY 3.0
By Ashley Cowie