Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 10th, 2008
The skeleton of a creature half human and half fish, which scientists say is more than 4,000 years old, has been found on the coast of China. Its discovery, imbedded deep in a sandy shore, has revived the old question of whether mermaids have ever existed. This skeleton is accepted in some quarters as conclusive proof that there were such creatures, long famed in the lore of many lands.
The strange relic which has come to light after centuries had a head, shoulders and arms like those of a woman, as proved by the formation of the bones and skull. The lower half of the body became petrified, and in all respects was like the tail of a fish, with several fins. On the head and the upper portion of the body a shriveled skin was found, similar to that of an Egyptian mummy. If further proof were needed, it would seem to be supplied by a few strands of hair on the head. Dermatologists have decided that this was once flaxen and grew abundantly.
Every story of a mermaid pictured a goddess-like creature sitting upon a rock in the sea, combing her hair. Almost every one of the ancient races left behind them accounts of the mermaid. These have been discredited for ages, being grouped with other myths such as the Greeks entertained. The sea serpent and dragon of such terrible aspect as described by writers of old were ranked with the mermaid as a figment of imagination. But the discovery of this skeleton discredits all the theories of civilization and brings to the fore once more the question so often asked – were there really mermaids?
The name mermaid is of Teutonic origin, corresponding with triton and siren as used in antiquity. The Chaldeans called this creature Oannes, the Chinese named her Wimpus, and even our own American Indians have a legend of the mermaid, in which they term her Ottawes.
It has been one of the unexplained points of the mermaid legend that so many peoples in such distant parts of the globe believed in the reality of a creature half woman and half fish. It would be hard to imagine two races further apart than the Chaldeans and the Indians. But both knew of the mermaid.
The skeleton found in China is considerably smaller than the proportions of a mermaid, according to popular conception, which invests her with a form much the same as that of a woman. It is pointed out, however, that this skeleton might have belonged to a dwarf of the species, or to a kind of fish which is said to have been common in Chinese waters about 6,000 B.C. And it is conceivable that the creature might have grown to larger size in a different clime. Whatever the truth, the finding of this skeleton opens anew one of the most fascinating chapters in the lore of mankind.“Mermaids Really Lived, Scientists Believe,” Fort Wayne [Indiana] Journal-Gazette, May 27, 1917.
Thanks for this historical item from Jerome Clark.