This article appeared in the Laois
Nationalist on Friday, January 19, 2001 :
The antlers and skull of a giant deer,
estimated to have lived approximately 11,000 years ago, was uncovered by
the secretary of Graiguecullen Gun Club, Seán Kearns, during work on the
digging out of a duck pond on marshy land at Sleaty, Derrymoyle.
The Irish giant deer became extinct in this
country more than 10,000 years ago due to deterioration of climate during
the ice age.
The remains comprise of the almost complete
skull of a fully mature male giant deer (Megalocerous giganteus) with
attached antler beams, which are thought to have been about three metres
The giant deer antlers and skull were
uncovered by Mr Kearns during digging work to develop a feeding shelf for
grain feeding of ducks.
The work was part of improvements to develop
the wildfowl sanctuary within a restricted shooting reserve operated by
the gun club.
Seán, a self-employed clothes retailer, told
The Nationalist this week: “The water had washed down the sand off the
shovel I was using the dig the duck pond and the antlers and skull were
The antlers are incomplete, representing
approximately half of the material which would have been present in life.
Twenty five antler pieces in all were uncovered, three large, the rest
The skull was complete but for a recent break
across the snout which is interpreted as being caused by mechanical
dredging of the pond which occurred previous to the find.
The skull was sitting on a layer of angular
stones which is typically associated with an extremely cold climate such
as would have prevailed at the end of the ice age about 13,000 years ago.
The remains were in a layer of lime marl with tight-packed grey marl under
the right antler palm - the flat area of the antler - and sandy marl under
the left antler palm.
Seán was accompanied by John Duggan, Knockbeg,
chairman of the club at the time.
The giant deer was discovered on lands rented
by Teagasc, the national farm advisory body, as a research farm from the
diocese of Kildare & Leighlin.
It will now be a matter for Teagasc if the
farm body wishes to donate the remains to the National Museum of Ireland.
On making the discover Seán Kearns immediately
contacted Mr Willie Kelly, the Teagasc Officer at the Knockbeg research
Subsequently the National Museum of Ireland
was contacted and Mr Nigel Monaghan, Assistant Keeper, visited the scene.
Mr Monaghan considered the find so important
that he arranged for almost immediate transportation to the National
The post excavation procedure included the
removal of all mud and adhering material from the bones and placing of the
remains in a cabinet where they were allowed to dry out slowly.
The bones are now being dried and cleaned at
the National Museum.
Mr Monaghan told The Nationalist this week
that every time the remains of a giant deer are discovered the National
Museum obtains extra information on the animal.
Giant deer finds are most common in areas well
know for their peat bogs.
Mr Monaghan said the giant deer would have
lived as long as any modern male deer - perhaps some 15 years - and would
have had to endure hazards such as attack by wolves.
The expert opinion on the Irish giant deer is
that the animal became extinct due to deterioration of climate 10,500
This climate deterioration led to the collapse
of the long spring season of growth of grasses and other plants which had
allowed the giant deer to build up their body reserves for the rest of the
LAOIS NATIONALIST 2006
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