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The Wendell Building now houses the Museum's dramatic collection of figureheads and ships' carvings. The most romantic and mysterious of all artifacts from the age of sail, these figureheads, billetheads and catheads also demonstrate the extraordinary skill of their craftsmen.
In ancient times, figureheads frequently depicted supernatural beasts and deities adopted from popular mythology. This tradition persisted into the nineteenth century, when patriotic figures and national heroes were also introduced. Modern vessels, for the most part, carry little if any decorative carving, as hull design and traditions have changed.
Want to learn more about figureheads?
Check out our Collections Research Center.
For more information on figureheads and ships' carving, see Silent Pilots: Figureheads in Mystic Seaport Museum by Georgia W. Hamilton, available at the Museum Store.