Loyal dog still guarding coins after 2,000 years
Archaeologists have pieced together the remains of a 2,000-year-old guard dog whose spirit is believed to have protected a hoard of treasure.
The skeleton, which is about the same size as that of a retriever or Alsatian, was discovered in a pit at the site of an Iron Age shrine in Hallaton, near Market Harborough.
Experts think the animal was sacrificed and buried to protect the Hallaton Treasure – a collection of more than 5,000 gold and silver coins.
The hoard was discovered a decade ago and is now housed in a gallery at Harborough Museum.
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The dog's skeleton, which was pieced together by experts from the University of Leicester's archaeological services, will go on show at the museum for the first time on Saturday.
Vicki Score, the university's project manager, said: "The Hallaton site is surrounded by a boundary ditch.
"The skeleton of the dog was discovered at the entrance to the site, buried in a slot in the ground.
"We believe it was bound and sacrificed and buried to guard the coin offerings. It was in an awkward position, looking at the hoard."
Mrs Score said the archaeologists had pieced together most of the skeleton, which dates back to between AD1 and AD50.
"Unfortunately, the back legs are missing," she said. "They could have been ploughed away."
She said the skeleton was buried on top of the remains of another dog and there was evidence of a third.
Mrs Score added: "It may be it was felt the previous guard dog had lost its power to protect.
"It would have been considered an honour for the dog, which was probably quite old, to be sacrificed in this way."
The dog bones will be housed in a case in the entranceway to the Hallaton Treasure Gallery, imitating the location of the dog burial at the shrine.
David Sprason, Leicestershire County Council's cabinet member for adults and communities, said: "It is fitting that the remains of this dog be reunited with the magnificent objects from the Hallaton Treasure and find a new home at the award-winning Harborough Museum.
"The dog's story is yet another intriguing aspect of this nationally-important find and illustrates the special relationship between humans and dogs that has existed for thousands of years."
Visitors to the Adam and Eve Street museum on Saturday will be the first people to view the skeleton on display. They will also be asked to think of a name for it. Younger visitors will be encouraged to draw a picture of how they think it may have looked when alive.