In Kazakhstan, ancient shark teeth are more than just fossils — they’re a way of life.
Regarded as a symbol of protection in the Kazakh culture, it is not uncommon to see Kazakh men and women wearing intricate amulets made out of shark teeth. Others prefer to adorn it by attaching a tooth to the end of a leather cord.
Archaeological excavations across the country prove that this is a practice that predates the modern era. Recent findings have unveiled pendants and amulets made of shark teeth that have been embedded with gold and precious stones.
Commonly found along the Aktolagay Plateau that spans the southern and northern reaches of the Aktobe Province, ancient shark teeth are both a geological and cultural treasure.
A fossil like no other
Before they became a fashion statement, shark teeth were used for survival.
Archaeological evidence in Kazakhstan suggests that they were used as arrowheads and at the tip of swords. The apex predator’s razor-sharp teeth were also attached to brass knuckles.
When it comes to shark teeth, the giant megalodon shark reigns supreme. Having gone extinct millions of years ago, the megalodon is widely believed to be the largest shark ever to swim the ocean. It is also one of the biggest sea animals on record.
In fact, its scientific name, Carcharocles megalodon, translates into “giant tooth.” And with good reason. While Great Whites typically measure around two to six meters, the prehistoric megalodon reached up to almost 18 meters long.
The tooth of the megalodon can range anywhere between 3.5 to seven inches in length and weigh more than one pound. Megalodon teeth that measure over four inches are extremely rare to find. This also makes them the most valuable shark teeth around. Depending on the size and location where the tooth was found, they can garner up to several thousand dollars at auctions.
In Japan, megalodon teeth were considered to be the nails of legendary Japanese folklore creature, Tengu. Characterized by wings and a very long nose, the supernatural beings were believed to reside in forests and mountains. Even till today, temples across Japan carefully preserve megalodon teeth.
Shark teeth are also revered in Switzerland, where parents usually hang them around their children’s necks during the teething phase. It is a widespread belief that the shark teeth helps to protect and minimize discomfort for the children during this developmental stage. Similarly in Italy, shark teeth and fossilized corals are used as amulets for good luck. They are believed to protect the wearer from the evil eye, bodily harm, love spells and witchcraft.
Over in the South Pacific Islands, shark teeth are recognized as a symbol of protection. This belief stems from an ancient folk story that depicts a young Hawaiian warrior who emerged victorious after battling a sea god. His weapon? A shark tooth necklace. Despite the passage of time, islanders still wear shark tooth jewellery to keep sea dangers at bay and prevent shark attacks.