Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Rare ice age elk antlers discovered in an Irish bog auctioned in New Zealand

Rare ice age elk antlers discovered in an Irish bog have sold at auction in Auckland today for $28,000.

The giant ancient fossilised antlers and skull, which belonged to an Irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus) and became extinct about 11,000 years ago, sparked a bidding war at Cordy's auction house this morning.

Four phone bidders clambered to buy the antlers, which have hung in a historic New Zealand hunting lodge for the past century and had an estimated worth of $8000-$15,000.

The hammer finally came down at $28,000.

For most of the 20th century, the horns, which have a span of 3.2m, were hung in the master bedroom of Major Robert Adams Wilson's private hunting lodge at Himatangi in the Manawatu-Wanganui region.

Wilson, whose father Sir James Glenny Wilson was a member of New Zealand Parliament from 1881-96, owned and farmed huge tracts along the Himatangi coastline.

He was one of the first European settlers to begin grazing stock on the soaring Himatangi sand dunes.

On his death in 1964, Wilson gifted the Irish elk antlers to his son Murray.

And two years ago, he in turn bequeathed them to Malcolm McIntosh.

McIntosh, 70, grew up near Himatangi and used to go on the Wilson's land for camping trips with the Boy Scouts and he knew Murray Wilson for years.

He recently moved to Taupo from Bulls, where he had lived for the past 60 years.

"Apart from the fact the elks have been extinct for 11,000 years, they're really rather impressive," McIntosh told the Herald earlier.

"But they're so big and we've got no room for them in the new house. If I put them above the double bed, the first thing that would happen would be that I'd be thrown out, and they'd be close behind me. So I thought rather than them getting damaged, broken or stolen, we'll move them on."

Wilson family provenance says the antlers were found in an Irish bog and later brought to New Zealand.

This pair, or another owned by the Wilson family, were deposited with the Dominion Museum, now Te Papa, according to a letter dated July 15, 1921, and held in museum archives.

Cordy's auctioneer Andrew Grigg said the antlers were one of the more unusual and rarer items he has ever sold.

"The size of the antlers is incredible. It must have certainly been an impressive animal to see in the wild."

In spite of its name, the Irish elk was more deer than elk and was not exclusively Irish, but was in fact found all across Europe, North Africa and Asia.

In 2005, Christie's in London sold a pair of Irish elk antlers for $83,000.

Another pair sold for $143,000 in 2003, and the largest known pair sold in Ireland in 2001 for $131,000.

- NZ Herald

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