Scientists have found an inexplicable pool of fossilized shark teeth in an area where there shouldn’t be – at a 2900-year-old site in the City of David in Jerusalem. This is at least 50 miles from where these fossils are expected. There is no conclusive evidence as to why the cache was assembled, but it could be that the 80-million-year-old teeth were part of a collection dated shortly after the death of King Solomon *. The same team has now unearthed similar unexplained finds in other parts of ancient Judea.

During the presentation of the work at the Goldschmidt conference, the lead scientist Dr. Thomas Tuetken (University of Mainz, Institute for Geosciences):

“These fossils are not in their original environment, so they were moved. You were probably valuable to someone; we just don’t know why or why similar items were found in more than one place in Israel ”.

The teeth were found buried in material used to fill a cellar before it was converted into a large Iron Age house. The house itself was in the city of David, one of the oldest parts of Jerusalem, which is now in the predominantly Palestinian village of Silwan. They were found along with fish bones that were thrown away as leftovers 2900 years ago, and other filling material such as ceramic. Interestingly, they were found along with hundreds of bullae – items used to seal confidential letters and packages – suggesting a possible association with the administrative or government class. Archaeological material is usually dated according to the circumstances of the find, so that it was initially assumed that the teeth were at the same time as the rest of the find. Dr. Tuetken said:

“We initially assumed that the shark’s teeth were remnants of the food dumped almost 3,000 years ago, but when we submitted a publication for publication, one of the reviewers suggested that one of the teeth could only have been from a late Cretaceous period.” Hai , which had been extinct for at least 66 million years. That brought us back to the samples, where measurements of organic matter, elemental composition, and crystallinity of the teeth confirmed that all of the shark’s teeth were, in fact, fossils. Their strontium isotopic composition suggests an age of around 80 million years. This confirmed that all 29 shark teeth found in the City of David were late Cretaceous fossils – contemporary with dinosaurs. In addition, they were not simply weathered from the bedrock below the site, but were likely transported from afar, possibly from the Negev, at least 80 km away, where similar fossils are found. ”

Since the initial discoveries, the team has found other fossils of shark teeth elsewhere in Israel, at the Maresha and Miqne sites. These teeth were also likely excavated and removed from their original locations.

Dr. Tuetken said:

“Our working hypothesis is that the teeth were brought together by collectors, but we have nothing to confirm that. There are no signs of use that could indicate use as a tool, and no drill holes to suggest that it was jewelry. We know that there is still a market for shark teeth today, so it may be that there was an Iron Age trend towards collecting such items. This was a time of prosperity in Judean judgment. However, it’s too easy to put 2 and 2 together into 5. We’ll probably never really be sure. ”

The identified shark teeth are from several species, including the late Cretaceous Squalicorax, an extinct group. Squalicorax, which grew to between 2 and 5 meters long, only lived during the Late Cretaceous Period (which was the same period as the late dinosaurs) and therefore serves as a point of reference for dating these fossils.

In a comment, Dr. Brooke Crowley (University of Cincinnati):

“This research by Dr. Tuetken et al. Is an excellent example of why it is so important to approach a research question with as few assumptions as possible and how we sometimes need to rethink our original assumptions. It also shows how useful it can be to use multiple tools to answer a research question. In this case, the authors used both strontium and oxygen isotopes, as well as x-ray diffraction and trace element analysis, to determine the most likely age and provenance of the fossilized teeth. It was monumental work, but these efforts revealed a much more interesting story about the people who lived in this region in the past. I am very excited about this work and hope that one day we can unravel the mystery why these fossil teeth are being recovered from cultural deposits. “


Dr. Crowley was not involved in this work. The work on the Jerusalem finds was published in the peer-reviewed journal Limits in ecology and evolution 8: 570032 (https: //doi.Organization/10.3389 /fevo.2020.570032), Dr. Crowley edited this article for the magazine. This press release contains additional material not mentioned in the publication.


This work will be presented on July 6, but will be made available to the press ahead of time.

* The find dates from the time of the immediate descendants of King Solomon; Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa and Joschapat.

The Goldschmidt Conference is the world’s most important geochemistry conference. It is organized alternately by the European Association of Geochemistry (Europe) and the Geochemical Society (USA). The conference 2021 (virtual) will take place from 4.-9. July instead, https: //2021.goldschmidt.the information/ . The 2022 conference will take place in Hawaii.


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