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  • The Non-Discovery of Shuck May 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern , trackback


    Shuck (aka shock) was a demonic hound that haunted much of East Anglia in the early modern period: and in the absence of satisfactory ancient and medieval records may have been running around with blazing red saucer sized eyes, since the time when the druids were the new kids on the Neolithic block. However, in the last days there has been a striking announcement made to the effect that shuck has been dug up. Now just savour that news for a moment. Archaeologists saying that they’ve dug up shuck (see picture) is a bit like a sociologist saying he has interviewed the lost boys or a historian saying he’s working in the archives of Never Never land. So what on earth is going on here?

    Put quite simply there has been a very slight coincidence and a wily PR campaign. First, a huge seven foot dog was excavated at Leiston Abbey in Norfolk. Second, the bones are old, not just a nineteenth century dump: in fact, they seem to be too early but we’ll get to this below. Then, third, Leiston Abbey is a mere twenty miles away from the single most famous event in shuck legend, the attack on Bungay church and just nine miles from Blythburgh, another church that was attacked on the same night. (In 1577, in a thunderstorm, the diabolical shuck was said to have entered Bungay and Blythburgh church and to have killed several individuals.) Now it should just take a moment’s thought to realize that these ‘coincidences’ are not that remarkable in the least. Big dogs exist, in the sixteenth century as today, and in 1577 there will have been two score giant dogs living within twenty miles of Bungay.

    The bottom line is that this can all be explained by a sassy publicity campaign on the part of a local archaeological team DigVentures, who are trying to get funding through crowdsourcing and who deserve the support of anyone interested in history. Strangehistory is very happy to link the relevant site here and congratulates the genius who saw a big dog skeleton and thought ‘shuck’ instead of rabies jabs: the story is now in  the Mail the dream of any publicist. Sensibly the archaeologists did not wait for the carbon dating to come in on ‘shuck’, because the shuck was apparently found with medieval pottery… and I’m guessing that that would have screwed the sixteenth century angle! Any discerning reader on the internet today would be well advised to ask cui bono, for any archaeology or history story. Other examples of non-stories: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    The storm at Bungay certainly happened, there are contemporary and local records. But the claim that a dog ran through the church was never mentioned in said local records. That came, instead, from a London publisher and sounds like an elaboration of a diabolical event (a lightning ball in a church), albeit one that follows East Anglian prejudices. The shuck is constantly described in terms of fire in the Bungay report and there was an electrical storm. Let Beach flag up again that excellent book on this subject SHOCK!: the Black Dog of Bungay.