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That's ours! Malta demands return of Prince George's shark tooth gift

Cadman

Sept. 28, 2020

There are troubled waters ahead for young Prince George, who delighted just days ago in the gift of a fossilised tooth from an extinct shark – given to him by Sir David Attenborough.
The famed naturalist and British broadcaster found the tooth himself on a family holiday to Malta in the late 1960s.
It came from a carcharocles megalodon, the biggest shark in the world, and one of the largest fish to exist. The now-extinct shark species lived in the sea some 23 million years ago.
Photos posted by the seven-year-old prince’s proud parents, Prince William and Kate Middleton, on Monday (Australian time) showed him looking pretty pleased as he examined the tooth with his sister and brother.
Sir David had joined the Cambridges at Kensington Palace for a private screening of his latest documentary, A Life on Our Planet .
“When I was his age, I remember being given fossils by a grown-up, so I thought I would do the same,” he said.
“[George asked] What it was? How big it was? And so on. He was certainly very interested. He seemed to like it. He is very interested in fossils. She [Princess Charlotte] was too.”
But there’s at least one party that is less than impressed with the gift – the Maltese government.
Culture Minister José Herrera told the Times of Malta the tooth belonged to the island nation and he would “get the ball rolling” on getting it back.
“There are some artefacts that are important to Maltese natural heritage and which ended up abroad and deserve to be retrieved,” Mr Herrera said.
“We rightly give a lot of attention to historical and artistic artefacts. However, it is not always the case with our natural history. I am determined to direct a change in this attitude.”
Under Maltese law, fossils fit the definition of cultural heritage as a “moveable or immovable object of geological importance”. Their removal or excavation is forbidden under a 2002 heritage act.
It is unclear, however, whether that hands-off law would apply to a finding from the 1960s. Kensington Palace has declined to comment.
-with agencies
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