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Simon Wilby @1
1 month ago

KURASHIKI, Okayama Prefecture—Researchers using high-tech equipment have reached a conclusion concerning a mysterious and creepy “mermaid mummy” long kept at a temple here: It is mostly fake.

Their one-year scientific analysis found that the supposed centuries-old creature is largely a molded object consisting of paper, cloth, cotton and other components, the team said on Feb. 7.

The 30-centimeter-long mummy belongs to Enjuin temple in Asakuchi, Okayama Prefecture. It was found in a paulownia box with a note that read, “A mermaid was caught in a fishing net on the coast of Tosa Province (present-day Kochi Prefecture) between 1736 and 1741.”

The mummy’s upper body was reminiscent of a primate, with a front-facing eye socket, ears, nose and hair on its head, as well as five fingers at the ends of both arms.

The lower body was covered with scales and resembled a fish.

Five researchers from the Kurashiki University of Science and the Arts here and other organizations had been analyzing the mermaid to determine its true identity since February last year.

The team used X-rays, a high-resolution CT scanner and other modern equipment for the study.

They said some real biological parts were found in the mermaid.

For example, the lower body contains bones from perhaps the tail and dorsal fins of a Sciaenidae fish, while the mummy’s jaw was that of a carnivorous fish.

But they found no major bones in the spine or rib cage. And the jaw was the only bone in the head.

The body’s interior consisted mainly of a mold of cloth, paper and cotton.

The head was almost entirely made of cotton, along with plaster and similar materials, they said.

The surface of the upper body was created with thin layers of paper, with puffer fish skin and animal hair glued to it, according to the study.

Based on scales peeled from the lower body, the researchers said it is highly likely that the mermaid was created in the late 1880s.

The researchers tried to conduct a DNA analysis, but no DNA was detected in the mermaid.

Kozen Kuida, 61, chief priest at Enjuin temple, said after the study that the mermaid mummy will remain a prized possession of the temple.

“Many people in this area came here and joined hands to pray (to the mermaid), so it holds their thoughts,” Kuida said at a news conference. “Now we have learned that it was molded with things that were alive. We want to continue to protect it with great care.”

How Enjuin temple acquired the mermaid mummy in the first place remains a mystery.

More than 10 mermaid mummies have been reported around Japan.

One found in Amami-Oshima island, Kagoshima Prefecture, was confirmed to be an elaborate artifact.

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