An unusual cache from the time of King Solomon was discovered in the City of David

An unusual cache from the time of King Solomon was discovered in the City of David
An unusual cache from the time of King Solomon was discovered in the City of David

In one of the districts of Jerusalem, scientists have found a collection of fossilized teeth of ancient sharks - contemporaries of dinosaurs. The find is unusual for Israel in the 900s BC and is probably one of the oldest collectibles.

City of david

Scientists have uncovered a collection of ten thousand fish remains, including teeth of ancient shark species, at a 2,900-year-old archaeological site in the City of David, the oldest inhabited area outside the southern walls of Jerusalem's Old City. The cache was recovered from a structure located next to Gikhon - a source in the Kidron Valley - and dating back to the second Iron Age.

A large rectangular structure (15 by 10 meters) served as a pool for collecting water. It is carved into limestone rock, has straight, almost vertical rocky walls, and during the Bronze Age, before the operation of the winding Siloam Tunnel dug under the City of David, was probably part of a complex underground water system. At the end of the 9th century BC, the pool was transformed into a private house: for this, it was filled with large limestone boulders and soil in order to raise the floor level by three meters and make overlaps.

Excavations also unearthed over six tons of pottery and several hundred broken clay seals known as bulls. They were used to seal letters or packages that were thrown away when opened. Scientists from the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz (Germany), the Zinman Institute of Archeology at the University of Haifa (Israel) and Minya University (Egypt) spoke about their discovery at the Goldschmidt conference on July 4-9 and in an article for the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.


As for the fish remains, they belonged to representatives of 14 families. Most came from the Mediterranean Sea (mostly they were spar (sea carp) and mullet). Almost 40 teeth and central vertebrae belonged to cartilaginous - sharks and rays.

“We first assumed that the shark's teeth were food debris thrown away nearly 3,000 years ago. However, when preparing the article for publication, our reviewer indicated that one of the teeth comes from the Late Cretaceous period. That is, the shark became extinct for at least 66 million years and was a contemporary of the dinosaurs. We re-analyzed the samples: measurements of organic matter, elemental composition and crystallinity of the structure confirmed that all the teeth were fossils. The isotopic composition of strontium has shown that they are about 80 million years old. Moreover, they not only rested in bedrock under the site: they were brought from far away - possibly from the Negev desert,”said Dr. Thomas Tyutken, lead author of the work.


The teeth belong to several species, including the squalicorax, a genus of extinct Cretaceous sharks from the family Anacoracidae, which is part of the modern order of the Lamniformes. Squalicorax reached an average of five meters in length, fed on carrion and did not survive the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction.

Since the first finds, the team has found several more shark tooth fossils in other regions of Israel, including at the sites of Maresh and Mikneh: they were probably also brought there. Since the remains of fish from the City of David lay next to the bulls, scientists do not rule out a connection with the administrative or ruling class. Fossil collecting may have been popular among the upper classes at the time.

“Our hypothesis is that the teeth were collected by collectors. But we have no proof.At the same time, we did not find any signs of wear that would indicate that the teeth were used as tools. Nor are there any drilled holes to indicate that it was jewelry. The market for shark teeth still exists today, so perhaps in the Iron Age there was a tendency to collect such items,”the scientists concluded.

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