Ancient giant antlers from now extinct Irish Elk go on display

Ancient giant antlers from now extinct Irish Elk go on display

A SET of giant deer antlers have gone on display in Waterford – the county in which they where they were first discovered nearly 80 years ago.

The ancient antlers, which are on loan from the Royal Dublin Society (RDS), are being exhibited at the Waterford Treasures Medieval Museum.

Belonging to the giant deer, Megaloceros Giganteus, c.9700BC, the antlers were found in north County Wexford and presented to the RDS in 1943 by Colonel Richard Percival Wemyss Quin of Borleagh House in Gorey, Co. Wexford.

Pictured at the Medieval Museum display launch (l-r) RDS President, Professor Owen Lewis, Áine Whelan, Rosemary Ryan, Keeper of the Bishop's Palace, Niamh De Loughrey, Deputy Chief Executive Foundation at The RDS, Nicole Collins, RDS, Waterford Treasures Researcher Cliona Purcell, Chairperson Des Whelan, and Director Eamonnn McEneaney

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries such antlers became a potent status symbol on display in manor houses across the country when the first sets were pulled from Ireland’s bogs by intrepid amateur archaeologists.

The magnificent animals they belonged to flourished on the lime-rich grasslands and shrub cover of the limestone bedrock of Ireland, before the first humans arrived on its shores.

Large, male giant deer were as big as a horse, had small footprints, large antlers weighing about 40kg and a total body weight of about 700kg.

As with modern deer, the antlers were shed and regrown each year, requiring a huge diet of nutrients.

Giant deer became extinct in Ireland and western Europe because of climate change and habitat loss, but human hunting may also have been a factor.

Director of the Medieval Museum, Eamonn McEneaney was delighted to welcome the President of the RDS, Professor Owen Lewis, along with members of the society to Waterford for the launch of their antler display.

“We are delighted to foster a new relationship with one of Ireland’s most distinguished societies and hope this leads to many more collaborations in the future,” he said.

Toby and his brother Lochlan Cooke from Waterford were impressed with the size of the giant deer antlers unveiled in the Medieval Museum

The RDS was established in 1731 to further the development of the arts, sciences, agriculture and industry in Ireland – a mission it continues to pursue today.

The Society holds a private collection of artworks and objects, most of which reflect its interests and activities over the course of its 300-year history.

“In the interest of facilitating greater public access to its collection, the RDS is delighted to loan these Giant Deer antlers to Waterford Treasures Museums,” the organisation confirmed.

“The Museum is delighted to now have two sets of these superb antlers on display to help bring knowledge of this now extinct animal to thousands of visitors every year,” a spokesperson for the Waterford Treasures Medieval Museum added.