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The hand of a mermaid?

The manatee or sea cow (Trichesus senegalensis) is usually found around the coast of West Africa, and early sightings are thought to have given rise to traveller's tales of mermaids.

It may be no coincidence that only a hundred yards from the museum, 'A Mermaid's hand' was listed among the collections of rarities in the Anatomy School in the Bodleian Courtyard in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

Another possibility for its origin comes from a 1638 description of the Tradescant's Ark in Lambeth of the 'hand of a mermaid'. The Tradescant's collections were acqired by Ashmole, and were later presented to the University of Oxford to displayed in a museum carrying his name.

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