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Conservation in Action: Carbon Dating the Giant Deer

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Works to the Giant Deer

Manx National Heritage has for the first time been able to scientifically date the Giant Deer skeleton, one of the Manx Museum’s most popular exhibits.

Familiar to generations of visitors to the Manx Museum, The Giant Deer is a significant and complete artefact that until recently had not been conserved since it was put on display over one hundred years ago.

In 2015, the skeleton was carefully removed from its former display and taken to a conservation facility within the Museum complex, where a team from the Manx Museum and the Lancashire Conservation Studios completed the cleaning and conservation of the skeleton. 

The work afforded conservators an opportunity to find out more about the life and death of this magnificent creature.

Christopher Weeks, MNH Objects Conservator said:

'It was important to make the very most of the opportunities that dismantling, cleaning and conserving the deer gave us. We removed three tiny samples of bone for radiocarbon dating by the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit.

All three samples provided dates which were statistically consistent with each other and show clearly that the deer died about 14,500 years ago, over four thousand years before the earliest evidence of human habitation yet found on the island.

We’d now like to know whether the deer was native to the island or crossed land bridges from England or Ireland to get here.'

It is hoped that tooth samples submitted for DNA sequencing will shed light on this and other mysteries.

The skeleton is on display in the refurbished Geology Gallery at the Manx Museum, open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm.  Admission is free, donations welcome.

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