via Antiquity, 24 October 2023: Archaeologists have discovered 7,000-year-old shark tooth blades on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, attributed to the enigmatic Toalean culture. These blades, made from tiger shark teeth, are among the earliest evidence of shark teeth used in composite weapons. Scientific analysis suggests that these blades were likely used in rituals or warfare rather than as everyday tools.
Although first identified 120 years ago, knowledge of the Toalean technoculture of Middle Holocene Sulawesi, Indonesia, remains limited. Previous research has emphasised the exploitation of largely terrestrial resources by hunter-gatherers on the island. The recent recovery of two modified tiger shark teeth from the Maros-Pangkep karsts of South Sulawesi, however, offers new insights. The authors combine use-wear and residue analyses with ethnographic and experimental data to indicate the use of these artefacts as hafted blades within conflict and ritual contexts, revealing hitherto undocumented technological and social practices among Toalean hunter-gatherers. The results suggest these artefacts constitute some of the earliest archaeological evidence for the use of shark teeth in composite weapons.