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Bizarre ‘Sea Monster’ Figurehead Recovered from Centuries-Old Shipwreck

People believed it could ward off evil spirits.

Ann Moises

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  • In 2015, a team of experts from Sweden raised an extremely unique figurehead from a Danish warship that sank in the Baltic Sea over 500 years ago.
  • The carved, wooden ‘sea monster’ figurehead was like a ‘fantasy animal’ that appeared to have either swallowed or spat out a human being.
  • The artifact belonged to the Gribshunden, the flagship of King John of Denmark, that sank in 1495 after the vessel caught fire.

In August 2015, a team of experts from Södertörn University and Blekinge Museum in Karlskona, Sweden raised a unique figurehead from the depths of the Baltic Sea. It was from the best-preserved vessel from the 15th century, the Gribshunden.

The carved ferocious – looking artifact measures 3.5 meters long and weighs approximately 300 kilograms. Johan Rönnby, professor of marine archaeology from the aforementioned university, thought of it as some kind of a ‘fantasy animal.’

The mythical figurehead was a part of the best-preserved shipwreck and the only one of its kind.
“Last time it looked at the world, Leonardo da Vinci and Christopher Columbus were still living,” Dr. Rönnby told Reuters.
Marcus Sandekjer, head of the Blekinge Museum said, “No similar item from the 15th century has ever been found anywhere in the world.”
The chimeric figurehead looked like a dog or a dragon with lion’s ears and a mouth like a crocodile’s.
Furthermore, the monster appeared to be eating or spitting a person out. The figurehead was very appropriate given the ship’s name, Gribshunden, meaning griffon-dog.
Also known as Griffen, Gribshund, Gripshunden, Gripshund, Griff, and Griffone, it was the flagship of John, Danish Hans, then King of Denmark.

The fleet, which measured 35 meters long and 12 meters wide, was supposedly on its way from Copenhagen to Kalmar in the summer of 1495. Unfortunately, it caught fire and sank. The King was not on board, but many of its 150 crew died.

Since then, it peacefully rested at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, near Stor Ekön in Ronneby.

According to an article published by Södertörn University, recreational divers found the shipwreck in the 70’s. However, it took 20 more years before it was properly identified. Moreover, it was only in 2013 when Dr. Rönnby and his colleagues first dove into the wreck.

“Gribshunden is a piece of global history, as it was this kind of ship that explored the world but has not been preserved anywhere other than the Baltic. Even in her time, she was one of a kind, the first generation of the ships that came to dominate that era’s European travel and warfare, ” Dr. Rönnby stated.

They found chain mails, barrels, coins, bones, logs, iron cannons and more from the shipwreck. But it was the discovery of this ‘mythical’ figurehead that caught the attention of international media a few years back.

During the 15th century, figureheads commonly look sinister as people believed they ward off evil spirits.

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