Prehistoric remains likely those of earliest-known shark attack victim
Sharks have been around for at least 450 million years, so it should come as no surprise to hear that even the first humans had run-ins with them. Scientists have now discovered evidence of the earliest-known such attack, which occurred 3,000 years ago in what is now Japan.
The discovery was made by the University of Oxford's Prof. Rick Schulting and PhD student J. Alyssa White, when they were examining the previously unearthed skeletal remains of prehistoric hunter-gatherers at Kyoto University. The bones had been excavated near Japan's Seto Inland Sea.
One of the adult male skeletons, called Tsukumo No. 24, contained at least 790 "deep, serrated injuries" mainly on the arms, legs, front of the chest and abdomen. Its left hand had also been severed, its right leg was likewise missing, and its left leg had been placed on top of the body in an inverted position.
Through a process of elimination, the scientists established that the injuries were not the result of conflict with other people, nor were they likely to have been caused by more commonly encountered land-based predators or scavengers. Suspecting that a shark may have been responsible, the researchers proceeded to consult George Burgess, Director Emeritus of the Florida Program for Shark Research.
With his help – which included access to forensic evidence from modern-day shark attacks – it was determined that the man was "clearly the victim of a shark attack." Based on the characteristics and distribution of the tooth marks, the most likely culprit was either a great white or tiger shark. Additionally, because the man appears to have been retrieved from the water soon after the incident occurred, it is believed that he may have been fishing with companions at the time.
A paper on the research – which also involved scientists from Japan and Germany – was recently published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.