Since the middle-ages, legend has spread of a fearful beast once said to stalk the region’s [East Anglia’s] countryside and coastline. Despite tales of a fiery-eyed monster showing up in graveyards, forests and roadsides – and an account of claw marks appearing on the door of Blythburgh Church – the giant dog’s existence has been reserved to the annals of folklore.
Until now, perhaps, as archeologists have revealed evidence of huge skeletal remains unearthed by a member of the public in the trenches at Leiston Abbey last year.
The DigVentures team are set to return to the site this summer, and are again inviting amateur history hunters to take their place alongside the experts from July 8-20, with the prospect of coming across an equally exciting discovery.
Of course, the giant carcass is more likely to be what remains of someone’s beloved canine companion, and is currently being analysed to find out how long it was buried in the grounds of monastic ruins.
The site was left almost untouched until last year, when site managers, and chamber music academy, Pro Corda teamed up with DigVentures to run only the second ‘crowdfunded’ community project of its kind.
DigVentures managing director Lisa Westcott Wilkins said: “We’re still waiting for results from specialists but we believe the bones are from when the abbey was active – so they could be medieval.
“The dog is huge – about the size of a Great Dane – and was found near where the abbey’s kitchen would have been. It was quite a surprise. We’re all dog lovers and we have a site dog with us on our digs, so it was quite poignant. Even back then, pets were held in high regard.”
It is hoped the skeleton will be exhibited as part of this year’s dig, which has received financial backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund to allow organisers to replace paper context sheets with a digital recording system, tailored to meet the needs of a worldwide community archaeology team.
Mrs Westcott Wilkins, whose team includes former Time Team archaeologist Raksha Dave, said: “There is evidence of a prehistoric age at the abbey, which even English Heritage had been unaware of. We’re really looking forward to going back. This year we can involve the public much more. They can get immediate online access.”