A 3,000-year-old skeleton with almost 800 injuries turns out to be the oldest shark attack victim ever found

·2 min read
skeleton japan
Original excavation photograph of Tsukumo No. 24. Laboratory of Physical Anthropology, Kyoto University
  • A man who died around 3,000 years ago is the oldest known victim of a shark attack, a study found.

  • The skeleton, which was recovered from a burial site new the Seto Inland Sea in Japan, had around 800 injuries.

  • Shark encounters are rarely seen on the archaeological record.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A 3,000-year-old skeleton found in an archaeological site near the Seto Inland Sea in Japan is believed to be the oldest shark attack victim ever discovered, new research has found.

In the research, published in the "Journal of Archaeological Science", an international group of researchers attempted to recreate what happened to a skeleton excavated from a burial ground at the Tsukumo archaeological site in Okayama prefecture.

According to their analysis, the skeleton belonged to a young to middle-aged man who most likely lived around 1370 to 1010 BC.

The man, known only as Tsukumo No. 24, suffered close to 800 severe injuries that were characteristic of a shark attack, including cuts, fractures from blunt force, and crisscrossing gouges with "sharp, V-shaped edges," researchers wrote in the study, according to Live Science.

The scientists also said he was missing his right leg, and his left leg was placed on top of his body in an inverted position.

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great white shark
Archaeologists said the species responsible for the attack was either a great white (above) or a tiger shark. Shutterstock

Judging on the injuries, the researchers believe the attack was very violent, although the victim most likely died very quickly, either from severe blood loss or shock. His remains were recovered shortly after the shark encounter and were buried in a communal cemetery.

"The man may well have been fishing with companions at the time since he was recovered quickly," researchers wrote in the paper, according to LiveScience. "And, based on the character and distribution of the tooth marks, the most likely species responsible was either a tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier) or great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias)."

Shark encounters are rarely seen on archaeological records.

"This find not only provides a new perspective on ancient Japan but is also a rare example of archaeologists being able to reconstruct a dramatic episode in the life of a prehistoric community," study co-author Mark Hudson, an archaeologist with the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, said in a statement.

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