Archaeologists find the oldest shark attack victim

British archaeologists have examined the remains of a man from the Japanese site of Tsukumo dating back to 1370-1010 BC. Scientists have identified at least 790 cuts on the bones, left by a tiger or white shark. This is the earliest direct evidence of the attack of these fish on humans. The article was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

Shark attacks on humans are quite rare, as a rule, in the modern world no more than a hundred such cases are recorded per year, while most of the injuries received were not fatal. Most often they occur in Australia, South Africa, USA, Brazil and New Zealand. There are only a few archaeological examples of such attacks.

One of the earliest known attacks on humans occurred off the coast of Puerto Rico around 789-1033 AD. While fishing in a canoe, a man lost an arm after being thrown by a tiger shark and died on the spot from loss of blood. The remains of this 29-year-old man were found in the early 2000s. He was buried in fetal position with prehistoric pottery, stone artifacts, clam shell, and ocher.

During construction work in the 1860s in Japan, in the city of Kasaoka, an ancient shell burial mound was discovered at the Tsukumo site. During excavations in 1915, more than 170 human skeletons were found here, which, judging by the ceramics, belonged to the end of the Jomon period (2540-435 BC).

Julie White and colleagues from Oxford University examined the remains from the Tsukumo shell mound, located three kilometers from the Seto Inland Sea. These bones, which have numerous deep, striking linear marks, were excavated at the beginning of the 19th century. However, until now, the nature of these injuries remained unclear.

The skeleton under study from Tsukumo belonged to a young or middle-aged man about 158 ​​centimeters tall. Radiocarbon dating, followed by calibration, put this find back in 1370-1010 BC. The injuries on the remains number in the hundreds and vary in size. Their greatest concentration is observed on the upper and lower extremities. The body of the deceased was buried in accordance with the funeral custom of the Jomon period, which helped him to remain in excellent condition, but makes it difficult to understand the tragic circumstances of death.

Research has shown that about three thousand years ago, a man from Tsukumo was attacked by a tiger or white shark in the Seto Inland Sea. Most likely, during the attack, he lost his right leg and left arm. The injuries sustained were clearly fatal, with at least 790 tooth marks. Scientists believe the large arteries in the lower extremities were severed early in the attack. This led to a relatively rapid death from blood loss.

The combination of archaeological and forensic methods made it possible to find out the causes of death. Scientists have concluded that this is the earliest direct evidence of a shark attack on humans. This find not only provides a new perspective on Ancient Japan, but also serves as a rare example of how archaeologists can reconstruct a dramatic episode from the life of prehistoric society.

Scientists are increasingly reporting finding evidence of injuries or rare diseases on ancient remains. So, at N + 1, they said that an ancient Celtic from Switzerland suffered from skeletal dysplasia, and in a cemetery of the Merovingian era, the remains of a woman were found, who has the most severe case of Madelung’s deformity.


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