A fisherman who dredged up a petrified ivory tusk from the ocean trench off Dongji Island (東吉嶼) in Penghu County donated it to a Matsu (媽祖) temple on Wednesday out of gratitude for the deity’s blessing and protection.
The rare fossilized ivory tusk was snagged in a net at about 200m depth in the sea off eastern Dongji Island by Wang Chiu-tang (王秋堂), from Greater Tainan’s Annan District (安南) earlier this year.
Although well aware of the potential financial value of his finding, Wang offered it to Tainan’s Luerhmen Tian Ho Temple (鹿耳門天后宮), dedicated to the goddess of the seas, to thank her for having kept him safe during his decades at sea.
Putting the fossil ivory, which was accidentally broken in two after being dragged up out of the sea, on display at the temple will allow more people to enter Taiwan’s paleontological fossil world, Wang said.
During his three decades at sea, Wang said he had fished up innumerable animal bone fossils and antiquities, including petrified antlers, buffalo bones and seashell fossils.
“At first I assumed they were just [animal] skeletons and gave them away to just anyone. Only after I started studying the methods to accurately distinguish petrified objects from ordinary stone under an academic in the field did I become a fossil collector myself,” Wang said.
Wang Liang-chieh (王良傑), a consultant with the Tsailiao Fossil Museum and chairman of the Natural History and Fossil Research Association in Greater Tainan, said that scores of fossils have been found in Penghu’s sea trench, including animal and human fossils, with most of them 20,000 to 30,000 years old.
“However, the discovery of a complete petrified object is fairly rare,” he added.
The value of petrified objects hinge mainly on their texture, antiquity and completeness, the fossil expert said, and could range from tens of thousands of New Taiwan dollars to as much as NT$1 million.
Translated by Stacy Hsu, Staff Writer