Great white shark was possibly responsible for world’s oldest recorded shark attack, leaving 790 tooth marks

An ancient ancestor of Cape Cod’s seasonal visitors may have been the culprit behind the oldest recorded shark attack in the world.

A great white shark was one of the two most likely species responsible for the attack around 3,000 years ago in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea. That’s according to a recent report in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The adult male victim — who was likely alive at the time of the incident — was attacked by either a great white shark or a tiger shark, according to the researchers.

The prehistoric man most likely lost his right leg and left hand in the attack, and his wounds would have been fatal as the shark left at least 790 tooth marks that reached to the bone.

“Sharks rarely attack humans or scavenge their remains, yet when they do attack the danger they pose is considerable,” the researchers wrote. “One prehistoric man from the Japanese archipelago learned this all too well.”

Modern shark attacks are uncommon and archaeological examples are even rarer, with the oldest previously known case dating back 1,000 years ago.

This new report reveals a shark attack on an adult male radiocarbon that dates back about 3,000 years ago during the fisher-hunter-gatherer Jomon period of the Japanese archipelago. The individual — identified as Tsukumo No. 24 — was buried at the Tsukumo site near Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, where modern shark attacks have been reported.

“Although numerous blood vessels and organs would have been impacted, it is likely that at least his larger lower limb arteries would have been severed early in the attack,” the researchers wrote. “This would have resulted in a relatively quick death from hypovolemic shock.”

His body was recovered and he was buried according to normative Jomon funerary practices in a shell mound, which helped preserve his body in excellent condition — and allowed the researchers to understand the unusual and tragic circumstances leading to his death.

“The attack on Tsukumo No. 24 highlights the risks of marine fishing and shellfish diving or, perhaps, the risks of opportunistic hunting of sharks drawn to blood while fishing,” the researchers wrote. “Humans have a long, shared history with sharks, and this is one of the relatively rare instances when humans were on their menu and not the reverse.”