Mummified’ Haunting Mermaid ‘to be analyzed by Japanese Scientists

The bizarre 12-inch (30 centimetres) creature was allegedly caught in the Pacific Ocean, off the Japanese island of Shikoku, between 1736 and 1741.

A “mermaid mummy” kept at a temple has been an object of worship, the stuff of nightmares and a source of mystery for hundreds of years.

Now, for the first time, a project has started to scientifically analyze the mummified creature, which has the upper body of a human and the lower body of a fish.

The researchers from the Kurashiki University of Science and the Arts here and other organizations plan to announce their findings around autumn.

On Feb. 2, Kozen Kuida, 60, chief priest at Enjuin temple in Asakuchi in the prefecture, removed the 30-centimeter-long treasured specimen from a paulownia box in the CT scanning room of the university’s veterinary hospital.

Laying face up on an examination table, the mummy appeared to be locked in a scream while holding its hands to its mouth. In addition to nails and teeth, the mummy has hair on its head and scales on the lower body.

According to a note contained in the same box of the “dried mermaid,” the creature was caught in a fishing net on the coast of Tosa Province (present-day Kochi Prefecture) between 1736 and 1741.

Hiroshi Kinoshita, 54, a board member of the Okayama Folklore Society, came up with the project after coming across a photo of the mummy while reading materials left by Kiyoaki Sato (1905-1998), a natural historian from Satosho in the prefecture.

Sato is believed to have written Japan’s first encyclopedia on “yokai” ghouls, hobgoblins and other supernatural creatures of Japanese folklore.

After learning that the mermaid mummy was housed at Enjuin, Kinoshita sounded out officials at the temple and the university to conduct the research, he said.

Takafumi Kato, 54, a professor at the university specializing in paleontology, is in charge of the morphology analysis of the upper body of the Enjuin temple specimen. It will be his first research on a mythical creature.

Researchers in Japan are investigating the origins of a nightmarish, 300-year-old mummified “mermaid,” which has been worshipped for centuries due to its supposed medicinal properties.

The haunting remains are most likely a gruesome amalgam of a monkey’s torso sewed onto a fish’s tail, potentially embellished with hair and nails from a human.

Hiroshi Kinoshita, board member of the Okayama Folklore Society, discovered the mermaid mummy, which is around 12 inches (30.5 centimeters) long, inside a box at a temple in Okayama Prefecture. He first became aware of the mummy after he found a picture of the bizarre specimen in an encyclopedia of mythical creatures.

 

A fisherman supposedly caught the specimen sometime between 1736 and 1741, and he subsequently sold it to an affluent family, according to a note left inside the mummy’s box. Researchers still don’t know exactly how the mermaid ended up inside the temple, according to Japanese news site The Asahi Shimbun.

Now, Takafumi Kato, a paleontologist at the Kurashiki University of Science and the Arts, and colleagues have begun looking into the mummy’s origins after Kinoshita convinced the temple to let the scientists investigate the unusual remains. On Feb. 2, the scientists imaged the mummy using a CT scan, as seen in this video.

Researchers will also take DNA samples to identify which species have been combined to make the mermaid. The team will release their results later in the year, they said.

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