Oldest ever shark attack victim discovered, dating back 3,000 years

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Researchers have discovered what they say is the earliest direct evidence of a shark attack on a human, with the sea creature inflicting some 790 injuries on a man 3,000 years ago.

Experts from the University of Oxford made the discovery while studying the remains of an adult male excavated from the Tsukumo site near Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, which were covered in traumatic injuries to his arms, legs, front of chest and abdomen. “We were initially flummoxed by what could have caused at least 790 deep, serrated injuries to this man,” said researchers J. Alyssa White and Rick Schulting in a joint statement. “There were so many injuries and yet he was buried in the community burial ground, the Tsukumo Shell-mound cemetery site.” Some of the lesions were very sharp, deep, and V-shaped, and were similar to wounds caused by metal implements that weren’t used by the Jōmon culture hunter-gatherers of this period, and terrestrial carnivores and scavenger tooth marks were also not consistent with the injuries.

“Through a process of elimination, we ruled out human conflict and more commonly-reported animal predators or scavengers,” they added. The shark species most likely responsible for the attack was either a tiger or white shark, researchers said. Their findings were published Wednesday in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. The team worked with George Burgess, director emeritus of the Florida Program for Shark Research, to study forensic shark attack cases and put together a reconstruction of the rare case.

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