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Unexpectedly Awesome: Medieval Sea Monsters

Unexpectedly Awesome: Medieval Sea Monsters


You probably didn't realize it, but Sea Monsters are totally fetch.

We hear a lot about sea monsters in the summer, the season of the Montauk Monster, the Panama Golem and the San Diego Demonoid. But these creatures are nothing compared to the ancient undersea oddities that terrorized our forefathers.

Those aquatic behemoths and their origins are collected in cartographical guru Chet Van Duzer's wonderful new book, Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps, an indepth dissection of ancient maps and sea beasts from days past, including the monstrous Ichthyocentaurs seen on the 16th Century specimen above.

Here are a few more mermen, sirens, and even a walrus or two from Van Duzer's excellent collection.


This 1593 illustration was made before Unicorns came to land, their interstitial environs before a permanent relocation to Wonderland.


This Queen showed up on a British map from 1491.


These 14th Century pearl divers knew a spell that scared away all the monsters.


Urbano Monte included this spooky sea demon in a 1590 atlas.


A 1562 map by Abraham Orelius shows some poor schmucks becoming giant fish food.


Fifteenth Century sirens were also freakish dolphins.


Early seamen were exceptionally fascinated by walruses. This one, from 1572, is coming onto land!


Iceland at the turn of the 17th Century was teeming with aquatic monstrosities, as seen in Abraham Orelius's 1598 creation.

Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps by Chet Van Duzer is out now from British Library.

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Andrew Belonsky