A prehistoric shark tooth that was gifted to the eldest son of the Duke of Cambridge last week could find its way back to Malta from where it was originally excavated, Culture Minister José Herrera said.
Asked by Times of Malta whether there were plans to add the find to the nation’s heritage collection since the origins of its discovery were made public, the minister said he would “get the ball rolling”.
“There are some artifacts that are important to Maltese natural heritage and which ended up abroad and deserve to be retrieved,” Herrera said.
“We rightly give a lot of attention to historical and artistic artifacts. However, it is not always the case with our natural history. I am determined to direct a change in this attitude.”
The 23 million-year-old fossil once belonged to a megalodon, an extinct species of giant shark that fossils indicate could grow up to 16 metres.
The specimen was collected by veteran naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough while on a family holiday in Malta in the late 1960s.
During a private screening of his new film, A Life On Our Planet, at Kensington Palace, Sir David gifted the tooth to seven-year-old Prince George.
We rightly give a lot of attention to historical artifacts. However, it is not always the case with our natural history
Fossils fall under the definition of cultural heritage as a “moveable or immovable object of geological importance” and, in line with the provisions of the Cultural Heritage Act 2002, their removal or excavation is (now) expressly forbidden.
In 2015, former MP Marthese Portelli got herself into hot water with the Superintendence of Cultural after a saying in a Facebook post that she had taken her son on a family outing to go “fossil hunting” in Baħrija, prompting an investigation by the Superintendent.
Portelli later clarified that the family had gone on a walk in the countryside and no excavation had taken place. She said her son had been excited by the activity and she chose to use his turn of phrase in her Facebook post.