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Ruffcorn

Fossil Shark Tooth worked by Native Americans

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Ruffcorn

My brother and I found this fossil shark tooth in the gravel beds along Firesteel Creek near Mitchell, SD.  We have gone several times and found many shark teeth but to my knowledge, this is the first Hemipristis serra that we found.  I believe this tooth has been worked by Native Americans.  There is a perfectly circular hole in the root - or it would be circular if part of the tooth weren't broken away.  I have read that worked fossil shark teeth from the Chesapeake Bay, including Hemipristis serra, have been found in burial mounds as far away as Ohio.  My questions are: do you agree that this tooth has probably been modified by prehistoric people?  How widely distributed is Hemipristis in North America?  Is it likely to have been found and worked on site or might it have been traded from the east coast?

 

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GeschWhat

I can't help you, but it is intriguing. There are some sponges and clams known to bore holes. It will be interesting to see what others have to say.

 

Welcome to the forum!!!:yay-smiley-1:

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Fossildude19

Brightened and cropped the pictures.

 

SAM_0355.JPG.d257b5731eb6481892a2c58dd0ee608b.JPG          SAM_0375.JPG.16baec9205bea6dd65bdbdc4c180c625.JPG            SAM_0379.JPG.bc21cc6e07c6c7d8eb3863d78b19c00a.JPG

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Ruffcorn

Thanks - that definitely improves the photos.  I have my doubts that this tooth was bored by a clam or sponge.  There is spalling of the enamel that looks like it was the result of a tool rather than persistent abrasion from an aquatic animal.  Searching the Internet turned up this article.  It has a description and photos of fossil shark teeth drilled by prehistoric Native Americans is just this same way.  Always through the root area because the enamel is incredibly hard.  

 

I believe that the gravel beds that Firesteel Creek cuts through were left by glaciers.  I have found many, many shark teeth, ray teeth, a beautiful section of what I believe to be an interior cast of an ammonite - no shell but articulated segments that might be casts of the interior chambers?  Also, a fossil bear tooth.  I don't know how far away these fossil came from or how many different eras are jumbled together.

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brad hinkelman

may have fell off the neck of another fossil hunter

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Ruffcorn

The broken edges look to have been softened by tumbling with the gravel in the creek.  

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Troodon

I agree with Brad.  This is a very common tooth to be put on necklaces.  I see many sold at the Tucson show with shark dealers.  Putting clean holes in teeth, which this has,  requires good drills. Most are wire but some are drilled.

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The Jersey Devil

It definitely isn't a boring sponge because sponges bore holes in bivalves and gastropods in order to eat them, and a shark tooth is not edible. A shark tooth is also made out of harder material than a gastropod shell, making it harder to make a hole in. And I don't think it could have simply fallen off someone's neck because for that to happen a whole side of the tooth would have to break off, which is unlikely since the tooth was sturdy enough to survive the drilling.

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TNCollector

That is an awful great distance for that tooth to travel. There are no sites anywhere near there that has shark's teeth of that age. It was definitely carried by man, and I wouldn't exclude the possibility that it was carried by a Native American. They did use them for ceremonial purposes. I have seen some in MS that were in Pleistocene deposits, but the teeth were from the Miocene. The cracking along the drill hole does look like it was worked by some kind of tool, but honestly, most Native Americans made tools out of chert or flint, and that enamel is likely just as hard, if not harder, so they would have had to put some effort into drilling it/used multiple tools. That leads me to say that it probably feel from somebody's neck, but then again, the "broken" edge looks heavily water worn, which could happen pretty quickly in a fast water stream.

 

I highly doubt it is a clam boring, like joseph said above, clams don't eat shark teeth, at least none that I have seen.

 

After all the ramblings, I personally would label it as a Native American artifact/fossils if an only if the site is not frequented by fossil hunters/is in the middle of nowehere. If other people go often, I would say it came from a modern necklace.

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Ruffcorn

The hole is in the root, not in the enamel.  The root is apparently much softer material.  

 

The site we go to is pretty remote. We have to park at the end of a gravel road, walk about a quarter mile on BLM land to access the creek, then walk the creek stopping at any exposed gravel. Lots of deer and coyote tracks. No human foot prints. 

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Ruffcorn

Mostly I am just curious about the distribution of that particular species of shark fossils. I personally have no doubt that it was drilled by prehistoric Americans. I just wondered if it was more likely to have been made on site or traded from the east coast where they are common. 

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Ludwigia

I've observed present day researchers boring holes in hard substances using prehistoric methods and seen the results after days of patient work and I've no doubt that the tooth could very well be an artifact. Our late stone age ancestors were quite skilled with handicraft techniques.

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Rockwood

Probably not important to this ID, but I distinctly remember reading that there are some buttes in the Dakotas that still have sharks teeth from the Neogene atop them. 

Don't I ?

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SailingAlongToo

@Ruffcorn,

 

For your reading pleasure, attached is an electronic copy of a paper on Native American worked sharks teeth from here along the Chesapeake Bay Region. Page 12 of the document has some items with drilled holes that appear similar to the one in your tooth.

 

Native American Use of Fossil Shark Teeth.pdf

 

Cheers,

 

SA2

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Mtskinner

I would say the boring clam or sponge theory is out of the question simply due to the patina change along the broken area as well as along the inner edge of the hole versus the rest of the tooth. If a clam had done this you would figure the patina would be even throughout...just my two cents though!

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Mtskinner

Here are a few drilled teeth that I've personally seen at artifact shows in the south...notice the even patina and coned shape of the holes!

Drilled meg (2).jpg

Drilled meg.jpg

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Taogan

To me it looks like it was drilled by a primitive drill, it seems to have an hourglass profile to the hole, so I would say it has a strong chance of being an early artifact

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