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The Mermaid Mummy: A Japanese 18th Century FeeJee Mermaid

August 15, 2010

Mermaid Mummy

The mummy of a mermaid supposedly discovered off the coast of Japan in the 18th century.

In fact, of course, a monkey grafted onto a fish tail.

The acquisition note of the item simply reads:
“1942: Japan. Said to have been caught over 200 years ago.”

Where did this particular specimen really come from?

“Prominent in ancient, medieval and modern mythology, mermaids (and less usually, mermen) were presented as three-dimensional curiosities in European drawing-rooms and popular sideshows from at least the seven-theenth century. A significant number of these seem to have originated in East Asia, especially in Japan.

Such ‘mermen’ consist of the dried parts of monkeys, with fish tails, probably on wood cores. The British Museum example, donated by HRH Princess Arthur of Connaught, was said to have been caught in Japan in the eighteenth century and to have been given to Prince Arthur by one Seijiro Arisuye” (Bryan Durrans)”

– from ‘Fake? The art of deception’.

Where is it?
Found in Room 1, The Enlightenment Galleries
Entering the Englightenment Galleries from the Great Court, walk straight across to the far (East) wall. Looking down to the lower left, in a badly lit cupboard you will (hopefully) see the Feejee mermaid.

Further Reading
‘Fake? The art of deception’. Edited by Mark Jones. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1990.
The Feejee Mermaid in Cryptomundo
The Feejee Mermaid in the Museum of Hoaxes

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