A study team has begun work on a “mermaid mummy,” a strange-looking creature (or animals) claimed to have been captured in a fishing net off the coast of present-day Kochi Prefecture, Japan, between 1736 and 1741. The “mermaid” has been housed at the Enjuin temple in Asakuchi since its discovery (or, if you’re a bit more healthily dubious, since someone stitched a fish to a monkey), where it has been viewed as an object of adoration.
“We have worshipped it, hoping that it might assist, even if only marginally, relieve the coronavirus outbreak,” the head priest told Japanese news site Asahi. “I am hoping that the study endeavor will be able to leave (scientific) records for future generations.” According to Asahi, it will be researched scientifically for the first time. The mummy has been taken from the temple by researchers from Kurashiki University of Science and the Arts in order to place it on a CT scanner.
The scientists will also analyse DNA samples obtained from the mummy to see what animals were used to make it — a monkey and a fish are suspected. Previous research has looked at similar animals, including one “mermaid” who turned out to be a fish linked to a wire and wood body and finished with human hair. The “Fiji Mermaid,” put on exhibit by P. T. Barnum, is perhaps the most famous mermaid fake. Barnum marketed the exhibit with images of classic fabled mermaids: lovely creatures with a woman’s head and torso (depicted as nude in the flyers) linked to the bottom half of a fish.
When they arrived to view the mermaid, they were welcomed by the top half of a monkey, which had been sewed to a fish, and both parts were horribly dead. A Japanese fisherman most likely made the mermaid as a prank. The fisherman stated that the monkey-fish had prophesied that everyone on the island would become infertile, and that the only way to cure it was to get a photograph of the mermaid herself, which he could conveniently provide for a nominal cost. Later this year, the researchers will publish their results on the “mermaid,” but don’t hold your breath for proof that mermaids exist. Another “mermaid” example was revealed to be a monkey sewn to a salmon, according to Hiroshi Kinoshita of the Okayama Folklore Society, who originally ignited this newest study.