A 400-year-old carving of a merman, discovered among the remains of a 17th century merchant ship in Dorset, will have its first public outing as part of York Archaeological Trust’s Shipwrecks exhibition, which opens in York on Monday.

The 1.5 metre-long baroque-style carving was found among the remains of the Swash Channel wreck, which was originally discovered off the Dorset Coast in 1990. The carved wooden merman will sit in water in the display case which will form the first stage of the conservation programme, helping to flush out harmful salts that have leached into the wood following 400 years immersion in the sea.

The exhibition, at the trust’s DIG centre until September, will enable visitors to explore the underwater world of marine archaeology and find out how shipwrecks are discovered, recovered and preserved for future generations.

The exhibition will also include other finds from the Swash Channel wreckage such as a swivel gun and an apothecary jar.

There will also be gunpowder containers from an Elizabethan wreck from Alderney; examples of expanding bar shot; and a mysterious rescued object which can only be seen with X-rays.

Ian Panter, principal conservator at York Archaeological Trust, said: “This exhibition demonstrates the work the trust trust undertakes to conserve, research and record finds. We have one of the few conservation laboratories which has specialist equipment and expertise to deal with underwater finds.”