The Dig: Peggy Piggott’s ‘bumbling’ portrayal slammed by archeology experts

The Dig: Carey Mulligan stars in Netflix trailer

Netflix brought the historic and wonderful story of the the Sutton Hoo treasure find to screen this month in The Dig. The little-known story of excavator Basil Brown has entranced viewers, but the portrayal of one of Britain’s top female archeologists has left some people feeling a little sour. In particular, archeologist Rebecca Wragg Sykes recently explained that the historical figure was actually “highly experienced” in her work, rather than the clumsy character shown in the movie. 

In the movie, Piggott is played by Lily James, and comes across as an accident-prone bystander.

The character frequently talks about wanting to be an archeologist, but confesses she was terribly new to the profession.

On top of being virtually pushed aside by the main archeologist, Charles Phillips, she spends a lot of time in the film being downplayed by her husband.

Sykes said Piggott was unfairly made into “something of a sidekick to her older husband, Stuart”.

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Sykes continued: “On the whole she is presented as deferential, even bumbling, putting her foot through a hollow feature.”

The film was based on the novel of the same name, which was written by Piggott’s nephew, John Preston.

Preston himself also pointed out the portrayal of Piggott as being “bumbling” were simply untrue – but added that she was not exactly the most experienced person there at the time.

He said: “She was 27 when she did the dig in real life so to suggest that she was a grizzled professional is pushing it a bit.”

The Dig: Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes star in Netflix trailer

A lot of Piggott’s story was changed from real history in the film.

The film explains the archeologist and her husband, Stuart, arrived on the dig straight from their honeymoon – sowing the seeds of the breakdown of their marriage later on.

Throughout the movie Stuart and Peggy’s relationship begins to dwindle, as it is hugely hinted that Stuart is actually more interested in another man involved in the excavation.

By the end of the film, the couple have broken up entirely, with further hints they will be divorced soon enough.

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However in reality Stuart and Peggy Piggott did not break-up or divorce in 1939 during the dig.

Instead, they divorced almost 15 years later, around 1954, long after the dig had already been completed.

A lot of time is spent in the film exploring the relationship between Piggott and her new love interest, Rory Lomax – Edith Pretty’s cousin.

Piggott becomes extremely interested in Lomax throughout the film, and by the end of the movie the pair become romantically involved.

This entire film sequence was also fictional, as Lomax is a made-up character for the film.

Played by Johnny Flynn, Lomax was presumably brought into the picture to give Piggott another avenue of character development throughout the movie.

Therefore, the real life Piggott did not go on to see Lomax again, nor end up with him, after the dig came to an end.

The Dig is available on Netflix now.


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