Shark Week in Biblical Jerusalem?

Fossilized Shark Teeth Uncovered in City of David

80-million-year-old shark tooth, uncovered in biblical Jerusalem.
Image Credit: Omri Lernau

While excavating a house dated to the reign of King David, an archaeology team made a shocking discovery, a cache of 29 fossilized shark teeth roughly 80 million years old. According to the article, “Strontium and Oxygen Isotope Analyses Reveal Late Cretaceous Shark Teeth in Iron Age Strata in the Southern Levant,” in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, the teeth were uncovered in the City of David archaeological park in Jerusalem, discovered amid fill used in the construction of an Iron Age house. Along with the teeth were other items, including hundreds of bullae, that suggest the material found in the fill belonged to Jerusalem’s governing class.

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The team originally assumed the teeth could have been the remains of someone’s dinner. Upon further investigation, however, the teeth proved to be prehistoric, belonging to a group of sharks that went extinct around 66 million years ago. Chemical and x-ray analysis showed that all of them date to the Late Cretaceous period (c. 80 million years ago), when dinosaurs still roamed the earth. Rock formations containing shark fossils are not found in Jerusalem, however, meaning that the teeth must have been brought to the city from elsewhere. Scholars speculate that they may have come from the Negev desert, about 50 miles south of Jerusalem.

Since the discovery of the teeth in Jerusalem last year, the team has also identified several other examples of fossilized shark teeth excavated at sites around Israel, generally dating to the period of the Israelite monarchy (c. 1000–586 B.C.E.). This has led Thomas Tuetken, the study’s lead researcher, to suggest that there could have been Iron Age elites who tended to collect such fossilized curiosities. “They were probably valuable to someone; we just don’t know why.”

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Jerusalem and the Holy Land(fill)
by: Yuval Gadot
Excavations on Jerusalem’s Southeastern Hill—just outside the “City of David”—have exposed a landfill from the Early Roman period (first century B.C.E. to first century C.E.). This garbage provides insight into residents’ daily lives and habits during a politically, socially, and religiously tumultuous chapter of Jerusalem’s history—when Rome ruled, the Temple stood, and Jesus preached.

Jerusalem in David and Solomon’s Time
by: Jane M. Cahill
Among the most controversial issues in both Biblical archaeology and Biblical studies is the nature of Jerusalem in the tenth century B.C.E. Why the tenth century? Because in the Bible that is the time of Israel’s glory, the time of King David and King Solomon, the time of the United Kingdom of Judah and Israel.

Jerusalem as Eden
by: Lawrence E. Stager
For ancient Israel, the Temple of Solomon—indeed, the Temple Mount and all Jerusalem—was a symbol as well as a reality, a mythopoeic realization of heaven on earth, Paradise, the Garden of Eden.

Jerusalem as Textbook
by: Gideon Avni
The magnitude and extent of archaeological activity in Jerusalem since the city was reunited in 1967 are unparalleled in the city’s long history of research. Since then, we have seen two major waves of excavations. The first, during the late 1960s and 1970s, involved three large-scale excavations—at the southern wall of the Temple Mount, directed by Benjamin Mazar;1 in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, directed by Nahman Avigad;2 and in the oldest inhabited part of the city, on a ridge south of the Temple Mount known as the City of David, directed by Yigal Shiloh.

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