After puzzling scientists for almost 300 years, the enigma shrouding Japan's mummified "mermaid" has been solved and it turns out to be man-made.
“Based on our analysis and the history of mummy creation in Japan, we can only conclude that the mermaid mummy was probably man-made,” Takafumi Kato, a paleontologist working on the project, told Vice World News.
A recent study has revealed new and unusual details about a mummified "mermaid" that could be over two centuries old. The specimen is composed of various biological animal parts, and researchers have found that these components are even more bizarre than previously thought.
The mermaid was initially uncovered in 2022 inside a sealed wooden container at a temple in Okayama Prefecture, Japan, as reported by Asahi Shimbun. Measuring approximately 12 inches (30.5 cm) in length, the preserved specimen has been the subject of in-depth research by scientists.
The mummy had been exhibited in a glass case at the temple for worshiping purposes before it was put away over four decades ago. According to a letter found in the box containing the mummy, the creature was captured by a fisherman at some point between 1736 and 1741.
Scientists speculated that it was created by attaching the upper body and head of a monkey to the lower body of a fish without clear evidence of its origins.
The creature's appearance is similar to that of a Ningyo, a legendary creature from Japanese folklore, known for having a human-like head and a fish-like body.
It is commonly believed that the Ningyo has healing properties that can aid in disease treatment and enhance one's lifespan. However, it is highly probable that the specimen in question was fabricated many years after its alleged discovery in the ocean, with the intention of deceiving wealthy individuals who sought ways to improve their health and extend their lifespan.
LiveScience reported that in early February 2022, researchers from the Kurashiki University of Science and the Arts (KUSA) in Japan obtained permission from the temple's priests to access the mermaid.
The artifact underwent modern electron microscopy and DNA analysis, as well as X-ray and CT scans for radiocarbon dating. A mixture of sand and charcoal was used to make a paste that was applied to the body. In addition, the torso, arms, shoulders, neck, and cheeks were covered with hair from a mammal and skin from a pufferfish.
Radiocarbon dating of the fish scales revealed that they could date back to the early 1800s. The mermaid's jaw and teeth appeared to be from a predatory fish, and its claws were made from keratin obtained from an unidentified animal.
The lower half of the mermaid was determined to be from a species of croaker, a ray-finned fish known for its croaking sound. Although the researchers were unable to identify any complete DNA, they concluded that the mermaid was most likely created to deceive people into believing in the existence of Ningyos, mythical creatures believed to have healing powers. Wealthy individuals were probably targeted as potential buyers.
Fourteen other "mermaids" have been discovered in Japan, and the team hopes to analyze them for comparison.
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