Where did the mermaid mummies in museums come from?
The mysterious mummy has been kept in Japanese temples for hundreds of years and has been an object of worship. The upper part of his body is like that of a man, the lower part is like that of a fish.
According to legend, a creature about thirty centimeters long was caught in a fishing net off the coast of Tosa province. This happened around 1740. And only recently did the priest of the temple in which the mummy was kept agree to hand it over to scientists for detailed study.
What conclusion did the experts reach? And where did the myths about mermaids come from in the folklore of various countries?
300-year-old mermaid mummy in Japan
Japanese scientists have discovered the secret of the Okayama mermaid. The 300-year-old mummy of a mysterious creature turned out to be … a skillful forgery. To create a “mermaid” he used a monkey’s torso, a fish tail and human fingernails. To study the mummy’s composition in more detail, scientists examined its DNA.
“Still, the Japanese believe in the miraculous power of this mummy,” said Doctor of Cultural Studies Alexei Kylasov. “And after the survey, it will be returned to the temple so they can still worship it.”
The Mermaid Mummy in Japan
In Japan, mermaids are called “ninge”. In local mythology, it is a creature with a human face, a monkey’s mouth and a fish’s tail covered in golden scales. According to legend, the ninge can bestow longevity. Enough to eat at least one golden flake.
Due to the popularity of such legends, craftsmen create mummies that look like magical creatures. Some even try to make them be real mermaids.
“The simplest forgery is to take the top part off the monkey, the bottom part off the fish, skillfully sew it all together, and indeed put it somewhere. Different options, different craftsmen, but the goal, in fact, is the same – to gain fame, money,” says bodybuilder Natalya Terenkova.
mermaid skeleton with thick hair in denmark
Another unusual exhibit is from the National Museum of Denmark. Guides say that the skeleton of the so-called mermaid Harald was accidentally discovered by a local farmer while plowing a field.
Allegedly, this skeleton is that of a mermaid that was found in Haraldskaer, mainland Denmark, by a farmer while plowing his field.
And according to a more detailed description presented alongside at the Danish National Museum in Copenhagen, where Haraldskaer’s mermaid was first exhibited in 2012, she was around 18 years old, with long, thick hair and long, sharp canines, and also had a bag that contained a shark’s tooth, a snake’s tail, a mussel shell and a flower (just like any self-respecting mermaid should keep inside her bag).
Its species is claimed to be Hydronymphus pesci, considered extinct since the late 17th century, and apart from a missing left hand, the skeleton is complete, much more so than the only other known skeleton of H. pesci, apparently kept in the Hermitage Museum. in Saint Petersburg, Russia, which has no tail.
Furthermore, this species is believed to belong to the Asian lineage of newts, thus making the discovery of specimens in Europe especially rare.
But Danish zoologist and cryptozoological researcher Lars Thomas kindly informed me that the skeleton of the mermaid Haraldskaer, complete with shark-inspired tail, was fabricated by Mille Rude, a Danish artist, for a special exhibition held at the Danish National Museum, Copenhagen, during 2012 .
Rude was inspired by the famous royal discovery in 1835 of Haraldskaer Woman – the naturally preserved body of a young girl found in Haraldskaer Bog and dated to approximately 490 BC (Pre-Roman Iron Age).
How did the myths about mermaids come about?
The mermaid is one of the most famous and ancient mythical characters. It is believed that the first legend of a woman with a fish tail appeared more than four thousand years ago in ancient Assyria.
There, from generation to generation, the story of the moon goddess Atargatis was passed on, who turned into a mermaid, throwing herself into the water due to the death of her lover.
Later these myths became popular among different peoples of the world. In Scandinavia, sea maidens were called undines. Sirens in Ancient Greece.
Moreover, initially the ancient Greek mermaids were represented in the form of birds with female heads. Later, however, poets began to describe them as girls with fish tails, who waited for sailors on rocky cliffs.
Mermaid legends were also popular in the Middle Ages. Europeans believed that the mythical maidens of the sea had no soul. To find him, the mermaid had to sacrifice the most precious thing in her life – the sea. And then – go to land.
“And one of the legends, also medieval, says that a mermaid came to a monk and he prayed with her that she would have a soul. She came to him several times, but in the end the force of the sea turned out to be too strong and she left,” shared bodybuilder Terenkova.
But where did the image of a girl with a fish tail come from in the folklore of different peoples? According to scientists, the mythical mermaids had real prototypes. These are manatees, dugongs and sea cows.
“Manatees can be mistaken for some kind of fantastical creature, because their body part, which is closer to the tail, is quite fish-like. But such a rounded and serious head – it is, in general, something that resembles, of course, mammals that do not live in water,” said Kylasov, a doctor of cultural studies.