A man killed 3,000 years ago, the first known victim of a shark

The first known attack by a shark on a human being would have occurred about 3,000 years ago in Japan. The victim was an adult male, whose remains, found in the Tsukumo oilfield, were riddled with traumatic injuries.

The events would have occurred in the inland sea of Hedge, in the Japanese archipelago, according to a study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. It is signed by an international team of investigators, who tried to reconstruct the events using a combination of archaeological science and forensic techniques.

Researchers were perplexed by the depth and number of jagged wounds on the remains

The victim’s remains were found by Oxford University investigators while studying evidence of violent trauma in the skeletal remains of prehistoric hunter-gatherers Preserved at the University of Kyoto. There they found an individual identified with the number 24.

In the beginning, the experts Alyssa White Y Rick Schulting were “perplexed” by the depth and number of jagged wounds –almost 800– Which presented the remains, explains in a statement the University of Oxford.

Reconstruction of the event

3D reconstruction of the body and wounds of individual 24. / Oxford University

The injuries were mainly limited to the arms, legs, front of the chest and abdomen. The experts carried out a process of elimination to rule out that its origin was due to human conflicts, predators or the most common scavengers.

The team concluded that the individual died more than 3,000 years ago, between 1370 and 1010 BC, and that the distribution of the wounds suggests that he was alive at the time of the attack.

Archaeologists estimate that individual number 24 was recovered by theirs shortly after the attack and buried. Excavation records show that he was missing a hand and the right leg, while the left leg was placed on the body in an inverted position.

The hypothesis of the experts is that the man could be fishing with his companions when he suffered the attack

The experts’ hypothesis is that man he could be fishing with his mates when he suffered the attack, so his body could be quickly recovered. Also, they consider that it could be a tiger or white shark, taking into account the distribution and character of the tooth marks.

Mark Hudson, another of the authors and a researcher at the Max Planck Institute, notes that this find not only provides a new perspective on ancient Japan, but is also a rare example of how archaeologists can re-enact a dramatic episode in the life of a prehistoric community.


J. AlyssaWhite et al. “3000-year-old shark attack victim from Tsukumo shell-mound, Okayama, Japan.” Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 2021

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