A wooden sea monster emerged on Tuesday from the Baltic sea after lying on the seabed off the southern Swedish town of Ronneby for more than 500 years.
Representing a ferocious looking creature with lion ears and crocodile-like mouth, the 660-pound figurehead stood at the prow of a ship. It was carved from the top of an 11-foot-long beam.
According to experts at Blekinge museum, which was involved in the salvage effort, the "monster" was part of the Gribshunden, a 15th-century warship belonging to the Danish King Hans.
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The ship was anchored in Ronneby when it sunk in 1495 after a fire. A contemporary of Christopher Columbus' flagship Santa Maria, the wreck is considered to be the best-preserved example of a 15th-century ship.
Very few wrecks from that period have escaped the ravages of sea worms.
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According to Marcus Sandekjer, head of the Blekinge Museum, the figurehead is unique.
"No similar item from the 15th century has ever been found anywhere in the world," he said.
The intricately carved monster was meant to frighten the enemy.
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"There seems to be something in his mouth. There seems to be a person in its mouth and he's eating somebody," Johan Rönnby, professor of maritime archaeology at Södertörn University, told the BBC.
Sandekjer believes it looks like a monstrous dog.
"It may depict the very ‘Grip Dog' that the name of the ship - Gribshunden - reflects," he said in a statement.
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The archaeologists are hoping to bring more of the wreck to the surface.
"The ship comes from a time just when Columbus was sailing across the ocean and Vasco da Gama also went to India," Sandekjer said.
"The wreck may give clues to the building methods used for those journeys," he added.
The "monster" is now resting in a waterbath at the Blekinge Museum storehouse, waiting for the preservation procedure.
"Last time it looked at the world, Leonardo da Vinci and Christopher Columbus were still living," Rönnby said.