Lead researcher Dr. Thomas Tuetken made a remarkable announcement at the Goldschmidt Conference; a trove of 29 teeth had been found at a 2900-year-old site in the City of David in Jerusalem. Mysteriously, the teeth were analyzed and are believed to be 80 million years old, belonging to an extinct shark that coexisted with dinosaurs.
Biblical era collection of fossilized shark teeth
“These fossils are not in their original setting, so they have been moved,” Dr. Tuetken said to the conference. “They were probably valuable to someone; we just don’t know why, or why similar items have been found in more than one place in Israel”.
The teeth were found mixed in with fish bones that were thrown away as food waste. The waste material included shards of pottery and hundreds of bullae used to seal confidential letters and packages that were buried in material used to fill in a basement before conversion to a large Iron-Age house dating to the 10th century BCE. . Researchers inferred a possible connection between the site and the administrative or governing class.
“We had at first assumed that the shark teeth were remains of the food dumped nearly 3000 years ago, but when we submitted a paper for publication, one of the reviewers pointed out that the one of the teeth could only have come from a Late Cretaceous shark that had been extinct for at least 66 million years,” Dr. Tuetken said. “That sent us back to the samples, where measuring organic matter, elemental composition, and the crystallinity of the teeth confirmed that indeed all shark teeth were fossils. Their strontium isotope composition indicates an age of about 80 million years. This confirmed that all 29 shark teeth found in the City of David were Late Cretaceous fossils—contemporary with dinosaurs. More than that, they were not simply weathered out of the bedrock beneath the site, but were probably transported from afar, possibly from the Negev, at least 80 km away, where similar fossils are found.”
Since the finds in the City of David, the researchers have found other shark teeth fossils at the Maresha and Miqne sites in Israel. The researchers believe these teeth are also likely to have been unearthed and moved from their original sites. The shark teeth which have been identified come from several species, including from the extinct Late Cretaceous group Squalicorax. Squalicorax, commonly known as the crow shark, grew to 2-5 meters in length and is currently extinct. Their bodies were similar to the modern gray reef sharks, but the shape of the teeth is strikingly similar to that of a tiger shark. The teeth are numerous, relatively small, with a curved crown and serrated, up to 2.5 – 3 cm in height. Large numbers of fossil teeth have been found in Europe, North Africa, North America, and now in Israel.
“Our working hypothesis is that the teeth were brought together by collectors, but we don’t have anything to confirm that,” Dr. Tuetken said. “There are no wear marks which might show that they were used as tools, and no drill holes to indicate that they may have been jewelry. We know that there is a market for shark’s teeth even today, so it may be that there was an Iron Age trend for collecting such items. This was a period of riches in the Judean Court. However, it’s too easy to put 2 and 2 together to make 5. We’ll probably never really be sure”.