Japanese scientists have started investigating the mysterious “mermaid mummy” that has long been an object of worship at a temple in Okayama Prefecture.
A team of researchers from the Kurashiki University of Science and the Arts are conducting scientific analyses of the mummified remains of the mysterious icon to determine what they are actually composed of.
The “mermaid mummy,” which measures around 1 foot, has earned its name for having an upper body that appears to be human and a lower body that looks like a fish tail.
The 300-year-old mummy, which has retained its nails, teeth and hair over the years, has also maintained the eerie expression of a screaming child.
A daily dose of Asian America's essential stories, in under 5 minutes.
Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories to your inbox daily for free.
Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive.
Kozen Kuida, the chief priest at Enjuin temple in the city of Asakuchi, took out the artifact from the wooden box where it has been stored inside the school’s veterinary hospital for an examination on Feb. 2.
“We have worshiped it, hoping that it would help alleviate the coronavirus pandemic even if only slightly,” the head priest was quoted by Asahi Shimbun as saying. “I hope the research project can leave (scientific) records for future generations.”
According to Kuida, the mummy had been put on display for public viewing about 40 years ago, but it was recently stored in a fireproof safe so it won’t deteriorate.
A note inside the box claims that the mysterious creature was caught in a fishing net on the coast of Tosa Province (now Kochi Prefecture) between 1736 and 1741. The mummy was passed on to other owners after the turn of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) and ended up being acquired by the Enjuin temple.
The remains are to be studied from a variety of academic perspectives. Hiroshi Kinoshita, a 54-year-old board member of the Okayama Folklore Society, will study the mummy from the viewpoint of folklore studies, while Takafumi Kato, a 54-year-old paleontology professor, will conduct morphology analysis on the upper body of the artifact. Meanwhile, an associate professor that specializes in ichthyology will study the fish-like lower body, and an associate professor with expertise in molecular biology will do the DNA analysis.
The researchers are set to release their findings in fall of this year.