What has the ears of a lion, the mouth of a crocodile, and weighs over 660 lbs? Well, the answer is the wooden figurehead of a mythical beast whose name we probably wouldn’t ever know. Salvaged from the Baltic Sea, the exquisitely crafted figurehead of the cryptic monster was found at the prow of a ship, where it once proudly stood protruding from a 11 ft beam. Now in terms of history, the researchers have been able to identify the ship itself. According to them, the vessel was christened as the Gribshunden, and it was designed as a warship for the Danish monarch Hans (also known as John, who reigned from 1455 – 1513 AD). Unfortunately, the ship caught fire and sunk in 1495 AD, near the southern Swedish town of Ronneby.
As for the ‘monster’ in question here, historians are still puzzled by its mysterious depiction. The head of the Blekinge Museum, Marcus Sandekjer made it clear that the discovery is indeed very rare by stating – “no similar item from the 15th century has ever been found anywhere in the world.”
Quite intriguingly, on closer inspection, the researchers found more cryptic details on this figurehead – including the depiction of a person inside the monster’s mouth; and even this person seems to be eating something. So, the figurehead might pertain to a monstrous dog, and it was probably designed to scare off the enemies. To that end, the very name of ship Gribshunden (or ‘Grip Dog’) might have mirrored this rather unfriendly looking sculpture at the prow.
And, beyond baffling monster depictions, there is a significant archaeological value of this find, since the historians consider this shipwreck to be the best-preserved specimen of a 15th-century ship. And if we dig a bit deeper, this very ship was also the contemporary of the marine vessels on which Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Game made their world famous voyages. As Johan Rönnby, professor of maritime archaeology at Södertörn University, put it forth rather poetically –
Last time it [monster figurehead] looked at the world, Leonardo da Vinci and Christopher Columbus were still living.