By RYOSUKE NONAKA/ Staff Writer
July 12, 2021 at 07:30 JST
A man who lived in what is now Okayama Prefecture has been identified as the world’s earliest victim of a shark attack, a study found.
The remains of the shark attack victim date back 3,000 years, according to the team of researchers from Kyoto University, the University of Oxford in Britain and other institutions.
Previously, the earliest physical evidence of a shark attack was found on a 1,000-year-old skeleton.
The Okayama victim’s remains were among the bones of 80 people uncovered in 1919 in the Tsukumo shell mound in Kasaoka, Okayama Prefecture. They have been kept at Kyoto University.
A graduate student majoring in archaeology at the University of Oxford found the shark attack marks during a research visit to Kyoto University.
The victim is believed to have been a 35- to 45-year-old man from the Jomon Pottery Culture Period (c. 14,500 B.C.-1,000 B.C.)
At least 790 scars were found on the remains, and they showed no signs of healing, indicating the man died of his injuries.
Some characteristics, such as a V-shaped wound, straight parallel scratches and holes apparently made by teeth, showed that the fatal injuries were caused by a shark, likely a great white or tiger shark, not by another human, they said.
A fish hook found at another archaeological site dating to the Jomon Period showed that people of that time were engaged in fishing using canoes. The shark attack victim may have been a fisherman, they said.
The bones were found in a posture typically used for burial services back then. The researchers concluded the body was likely quickly recovered by his companions after the attack or drifted to the coast within a few days.
They ruled out the possibility that the corpse was left floating in the sea for a prolonged period.
Masato Nakatsukasa, a physical anthropology professor at Kyoto University, said he hopes the other remains kept at the school will also lead to significant discoveries.
“The specimens uncovered 100 years ago could offer new finds,” Nakatsukasa said.
The team’s research was published in the international specialized magazine Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports at (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2021.103065).
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