Wooden ships have long been carved with figureheads such as mermaids, merlions, gods or beasts. Below are images of mastheads, figureheads or decorations from barges and ships. (Source: photographs J.Jones 2016)
In some cases these symbolic of protection or draw attention to the dignity and majesty of the owner. In many cases figureheads served more than one purpose – they may be purely ornamental, or have the intent to ward off evil and bring protection, or in the case of vessels used in war, the prow was often ornamented with a ram – to cause maximum damage below the waterline of an enemy ship in a collision.