The shark attacks they are one of the biggest fears of a bather (thanks, Spielberg). However, they are not as frequent as we might think. According to the annual report of the Florida Museum, in 2020 there were worldwide 129 attacks, of which only 11 were deadly. We might think that since it was the year of the pandemic, the figures were lower than normal; but, curiously, they were higher, since the annual average is in 4 deaths from shark attacks.
The truth is that, both from this institution and many others, this type of accident has been controlled for a long time. However, there was a time when it was not so easy, not least because it was impossible to communicate with other parts of the world. Therefore, we cannot know data such as who was the first person who died between the jaws of a shark. Not when it was. What we do know is what the oldest victim in archaeological records. In fact, it is a title that has just been renewed following a study recently published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports by scientists from the Oxford University.
When shark attacks weren’t registered
At the beginning of the 20th century, a curious skeleton appeared during an excavation in the Tsukumo shell-mound depositnear the Seto Inland Sea in Japan.
Although the bones appeared in the early 1900s, they had not been linked to shark attacks until recently.
The victim, who passed away about 3,000 years ago, was a man, who the left hand and the right leg were missing. Furthermore, the left leg had been placed in the burial inverted on his body. As for the rest of the bones, they were fully covered by up to 790 brands saw-shaped, especially in the area of arms and legs. He must have had a very violent death. But how exactly did he die?
Initially, this question was not answered and the remains fell into oblivion. However, several decades later, two archaeologists from the University of Oxford, named J. Alyssa White and Rick Schulting they were investigating the violence of prehistoric Japan when they fell into his hands. It is not for less. It was a clear example of violence, but perhaps not of the violence that was thought at the time. And it is that a preliminary analysis was enough to verify that the wounds did not correspond to those that would have caused the stone tools made at that time.
What killed that poor man was not human and the site was in a coastal area. Therefore, they began to think about shark attacks. Maybe that’s what happened to him. But they are not experts on this subject, so they contacted George Burgess, from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s shark research program. He didn’t hesitate when he saw the bones. That man had been attacked by a shark.
An unlucky fisherman
The victim must have been fishing with more companions, because the remains could be recovered and buried
Once it was concluded that the shark attacks were behind the man’s death, there were still many questions that they wanted to answer. For starters, the species of shark responsible.
However, given the age of the bones it was not possible to clarify it exactly, beyond possibly being or a white shark or a tiger shark.
They also wanted to know the age of the man and how death occurred. The study of the bones showed that it was between a young and middle age. Possibly he was a fisherman and was attacked when he was with more companions. If not, it would have been impossible to rescue the remains and bury them in the village cemetery.
Regarding the way he died, despite the brutality of the injuries, experts believe that death must have been quick. This theory is based on the fact that it appears that the femoral artery was severed early. This would have led to a great hemorrhage and, with it, to a hypovolemic shock, which occurs when a person abruptly loses at least one fifth of their blood.
That is all they know so far about man, known in archeology as Tsukumo No. 24. Right now, he is the oldest known shark victim. But with high probability it was not the first. We don’t know if he was catching smaller fish or if he and his companions had set out to return home with a large trophy in the shape of a shark. If so, they would prove in the worst of ways that it is not a good idea to try to deal with one of them.