A Danish warship anchored in the Northern Swedish town of Ronneby sank after it caught fire in 1495, bringing along with it, among other objects, a wooden sea monster.
On Tuesday, after lying on the sea floor for more than 500 years, the figurehead of what looks like a ferocious creature with the ears of a lion and mouth of a crocodile was lifted from the seabed.
The 660-pound object stood at the prow of the ship and was carved from the top of a beam measuring 11 feet in length.
Experts at the Blekinge museum who took part in the recovery efforts said that the wooden monster was part of the 15th century warship Gribshunden, which belonged to the Danish King Hans.
Only a few wrecks from the 15th century were able to escape the ravages of the sea worm. The ship, which dates back to about the same period as Christopher Columbus' Santa Maria, is considered the best preserved example of a ship from the period albeit the ship's hull has suffered extensive damage.
Researchers said that the hull is well preserved because the Baltic Sea's brackish waters do not do well with sea worms.
The newly emerged figurehead is also unique. Experts say that no other similar item from the period has ever been found anywhere in the world. The carved monster was intended to scare the enemy.
"It's a monster. It's a sea monster and we have to discuss what kind of animal it is," said Johan Ronnby, from Södertörn University. "I'm amazed. We knew that it should be a fantastic figure, but it was over our expectations when we saw it now. It's a fantastic figure, unique in the world."
Ronnby, who thinks the intricately carved object depicts what looks like a monstrous dog, said that the figure appears to have something in its mouth.
"There seems to be a person in its mouth and he's eating somebody," Ronnby said. "It may depict the very 'Grip Dog' that the name of the ship—Gribshunden—reflects."
Researchers hope to bring back more of the wreck from the sea bed to the surface in the future. Parts of weapons and armors have already been recovered and are now on display in museums.
Experts believe that since there were no ships left from the period, the wreck can provide researchers with information about how ships were made and constructed.