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Engraving of a unicorn, a mythological beast.

Engraving of a unicorn, a mythological beast.

Z965/0006

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Credit

SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Unicorn. Engraving of a unicorn, a mythological creature. Classical writers referred to the unicorn as a fabulous creature resembling a white horse with one long spiralled horn growing from its forehead. It was said to live in India. During the medieval period the unicorn came to symbolise purity and holiness. It was believed that the unicorn could be captured only by a virgin. The spiralled tusk of the narwhal (a sea mammal) was often sold as "unicorn horn" and it was claimed to have magical properties of healing. The unicorn myth is now thought to be based on stories of the rhinoceros. Image from a zoological text by Conrad Gesner in 1563.

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