The Gilbert Islands had amazing fights. The Gilbert Islands are a remote chain, now part of Kiribati, and the natives, starved for space, chose champions to fight it out. Dressed them in special armor, the champions threw them at each other with the hopes of gaining or defending territory. The fights didn’t look very much like Europeans battles, however. The Gilbert Islands don’t have natural sources of metal. These were no knights in plate armor – the islanders had to make due with natural materials. What armor they wore was made of shark skin and coconut cord. Weapons were vicious inventions of wood and bone. Shark teeth were common – woven into razor-sharp knuckle dusters or inlaid into wooden swords.
The islanders used pretty much everything they could find in these fights. A recent analysis showed that more than seventeen different species of sharks were used to create these vicious weapons. Which is interesting, since two of those species – the spotfin shark and dusky shark – aren’t found near the islands, at least not today.
“Had we never done this work, nobody would have ever known that these things ever existed there. It had been erased from our collective memories that these sharks once plied these waters,” said J. Drew, one of the study authors. No historical or cultural records of these species survived to the present day.
The complete study can be read here at PLOS One.
Source: National Geographic