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7,000-Year-Old Shark Tooth Blades Likely Used in Indonesia Ritual

Shark Teeth Blades
A knife with a shark tooth blade from Aua Island, Papua New Guinea. Credit: Antiquity Publications Ltd / CC BY 4.0

Archaeologists working on Sulawesi, an island in Indonesia, have discovered something extraordinary. They found two ancient and lethal items around seven thousand years old. These items are tiger shark teeth which were used as blades.

The new discovery has been documented in the academic journal Antiquity. It is some of the oldest proof anywhere in the world providing evidence that people used shark teeth for the creation of weapons. Prior to this, the oldest shark tooth blades found were less than five thousand years old, reported Live Science.

7,000-year-old shark teeth found in Indonesia

These two shark teeth were found during excavations as part of a research effort by both Indonesian and Australian archaeologists working together. They discovered these teeth in places where the Toalean culture once lived.

The Toalean people were a rather obscure group of hunters and gatherers who resided in the southwest part of Sulawesi about eight thousand years ago.

The teeth unearthed during excavations are those of tiger sharks, specifically the Galeocerdo cuvier species, which was around 6.5 feet (two meters) long. What makes these teeth unique is that they have small holes in them, according to Live Science.

One of the teeth, discovered at a place called Leang Panninge in a cave, has two holes that were drilled through its base.

The other tooth, which was found in the Leang Bulu’ Sipong 1 cave, has one hole. It appears to be broken, but it is also possible that it originally had two holes like the first.

Teeth fixed to handle with plant-based threads and glue

When scientists examined the teeth under a microscope, they discovered that they were once firmly attached to a handle using threads made of plants and a sticky, glue-like substance. This glue was created by mixing minerals, plant materials, and other animal parts.

According to Live Science, the way these ancient teeth were connected to a handle shows they were used in ways similar to how shark-tooth blades are utilized by people of the Pacific region to this day.

There were signs the tools were used for quite a variety of purposes, including the piercing, cutting, and scraping of flesh and bone. There was much more damage detected on them than what we may expect from a shark’s natural feeding habits.

The experiments showed that tiger shark-tooth knives could make deep and long incisions to skin regardless of whether they were used for striking, such as in a fight, or for butchering a fresh pork leg.

The only downside is that these teeth became dull quite fast and wouldn’t stay sharp long enough to be practical for everyday usage.

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