The Legend of Black Shuck

The Legend of Black ShuckYou know you’re on to a winner when the Daily Mail runs an archaeology story with a question mark in the title. There’s always the hint of an archaeological discovery in there somewhere… but it’s down so deep you’ve got to drop another trench in just to find it.

The big question we’ve always wondered is: how does the magic happen?

We had our own experience of this today, when our discovery of an exceptionally large canine skeleton at Leiston Abbey last year suddenly grew legs, and bounded over to the features section of the Daily Mail.

‘Was this,’ the journalist wondered, potentially ‘the devil dog Black Shuck who terrorised 16th century East Anglia?’

Unfortunately we weren’t around to answer as we’d just popped out for lunch leaving Fergus, a.k.a. @SiteDog (funnily enough also known throughout East Anglia as ‘The Legend’ – or sometimes just ‘Ledge’ for short) in charge to ‘man’ the phones. I can just imagine the scenario now…

<Phone Rings>

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 11.45.44@SiteDog: Hello, DogVentures, we deliver.

@Newshound: Hello, yes, I’m on the scent of a good story. Can I have a chat with the archaeologists?

@SiteDog: Well… you could if you like… or better still, you could just cut to chase and talk to the organ grinder.

@Newshound: Definitely cut to chase! So, just one question really: is this the skeleton of legendary devil dog Black Shuck who terrorised 16th century East Anglia?

@SiteDog: Yeah – well, it was definitely later than the disillusionment of the Monasteries, so that puts him squarely in the right time period. And size wise, seven foot tall at least. Now you can’t really tell this from the bones, but if you draw a picture of the bones, and paint it in dark forbidding colours, you can see he had saliva dripping fangs and eyes glowing red as burning coals.

@Newshound: Jeeze! That’s terrifying!

@SiteDog: Totally. Digging him up scared the pants off the venturers – they were shaking their little Site Boots! Now I’m not saying it was definitely Black Shuck or nothing, but what I am saying is I’m hard as nails – and this beast would’ve had me for dinner.

@Newshound: Well I think that answers that one then. I’ll scribble this and you’ll see it on the mat tomorrow morning!

@SiteDog: Cool! I won’t tell ‘em you’ve called.

@Newshound: Aye, best not

The scientist in me wants to get all Sherlock Holmes on this Hound of The Baskervilles story – to tell you that Devil Dog archetypes are common from all regions of the British Isles; that the dating is still relative – and we still need radiocarbon determinations; and that we’re still awaiting the results of a metrical analysis of the bones to give a modern comparison of breed.

But sometimes you’ve got to just take the lab coat off for a minute and marvel at the richness of the stories we tell each other about the past. If the Internet is the modern-day campfire, it’s warming to hear this old tale told all over again. And you’re welcome!

Read the full story in the Daily Mail here…

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Brendon Wilkins

Written by Brendon Wilkins

Co-founder and Projects Director at DigVentures, Brendon heads up our field and post-ex team. Aside from field archaeology, his specialisms are cheese, tea and writing animatedly about himself in the third person.

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