Why were prehistoric shark teeth found in City of David?

Teeth belonging to sharks which swam in the time of the dinosaurs were collected by an unknown person in First Temple-period Jerusalem.

Gary Willig ,

Shark (illustrative)
Shark (illustrative)
Credit: Thinkstock

Over twenty prehistoric shark teeth were found in an archaeological site in Jerusalem's City of David, the academic journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution reported.

The teeth, believed to be millions of years old, were found in one of the rock cut pools near the Gihon Spring. The pool was filled in with soil and stones to allow the construction of a house above it about 2,900 years ago.

Archaeologists found over 10,000 fish bones at the site, including the shark teeth.

Lead researcher Dr. Thomas Tuetken of the University of Mainz said that the teeth were gathered deliberately and were not food residue as had been initially assumed.

"These fossils are not in their original setting, so they have been moved. 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."

Some of the teeth were found to belong to a shark species which roamed the world's oceans during the cretaceous period and went extinct at the same time as the dinosaurs. The species is the Squalicorax, or 'raven' shark, a predatory shark which had teeth similar to a modern tiger shark and could grow up to 16 feet in length.

Fossils the age of these teeth are not usually found within 80 kilometers of Jerusalem.

There were no marks on the teeth which would indicate that they were worn as 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,” said Tuetken.

He noted that the team has since made similar finds of shark teeth in other archeological sites in ancient Judea, but we will likely never know who collected the shark teeth in Biblical Jerusalem.

"This was a period of riches in the Judean Court,” said Tuetken. “However, it’s too easy to put 2 and 2 together to make 5. We’ll probably never really be sure."



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