Shark teeth in Jerusalem

Publish date 10-12-2021

by Agnese Picco

During an archaeological excavation in the City of David, in the area outside the southern walls of the Old City, archaeologists discovered the remains of a structure adjacent to a spring, called the "Fountain of the cut rock", which was part of the complex circulation system of the internal waters of the city. Thanks to the materials found inside the structure, it was possible to date it to the 8-7th century. B.C.
Later this space was filled with waste materials and earth to serve as a foundation for a house. Garbage is a very important source of information for archaeological research.
Inside the waste material used to fill the structure, more than 10 thousand remains of fish were found, probably for food use and 39 shark teeth and vertebrae.

Among the archaeological finds of the Near East it is unusual to find shark remains.
Although this fish was usually consumed, except for the teeth and vertebrae, the animal's skeleton is made of cartilage and therefore is not preserved. The teeth were also often used as ornamental objects or as cutting parts of tools.
The fish remains found in Jerusalem were studied by analyzing the isotopes of strontium and oxygen, a method that is used to define the origin of land animals and the trade routes on which they were moved. The researchers applied the same method to fish, achieving some goals. The shark teeth were found not to be contemporary with the site, but fossils. They were formed in the tropical seas of the Thetis Ocean about 80 million years ago. This data was obtained thanks to the establishment of standard values ​​of the isotopes of strontium and oxygen for fish in the neighboring areas, so as to be able to be compared with the ancient ones. The researchers' work may be useful for further research aimed at tracing the origin of the archaeological remains of fish, as was done with sea bream bones, also from Jerusalem, discovering that they were not local fish, caught in the Mediterranean, but imported. from the Bardawil Lagoon area.

Agnes Picco
NP August / September 2021

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