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, reports www.asahi.com.
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.