Was archaeologist Stuart Piggott from The Dig gay in real life? Fans of Netflix’s The Dig (released Friday, 29 January) are curious and fascinated with the real man behind the historical fiction.
The film, starring Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown, is based on the true story of British archaeologists Brown and Piggott and their unearthing of Sutton Hoo. Although in the movie, Stuart Piggott, played by Ben Chaplin, is portrayed as a gay man, things seemed to be a bit more complicated in real life. Warning: spoilers ahead!
What is Netflix’s The Dig about?
The Dig is a Netflix adaptation of a novel of the same name by John Preston. The story is set in 1939, on the eve of World War 2 and revolves around one of the largest British archaeological finds, the early medieval burial site at Sutton Hoo, in Suffolk, England. This is based on the true story of the site’s discovery.
The Netflix film follows amateur archaeologist Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes), who is called out to wealthy widow Edith Pretty’s (Carey Mulligan) estate, where she wants to excavate a series of earth mounds on her property.
The museum where Brown works is unable to spare anyone to help her, as they are preparing for the impending war, so they send Brown, who according to Hollywood insider is “considered inferior by his colleagues due to his lack of formal education.”
The excavation at Sutton Hoo turns out to be one of the largest British archaeological findings ever and it captures the interest of the whole country. As the story unfolds, unlikely friendships and romances form between the characters and personal, as well as historical, secrets come to light.
Who was Piggott in real life?
Stuart Piggott was born on 28 May 1910. His father was a schoolmaster from Berkshire and his mother hailed from Wales.
Piggott is best known for his findings at Sutton Hoo, where he was invited by archaeologist and lead excavator of the site, Charles Phillips.
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After World War 2, which he spent posted in India, interpreting air photography and studying the archaeology of the sub-continent, Piggott’s accolades grew exponentially. He studied at Oxford and, in 1946, was offered the Abercromby Chair in Archaeology at Edinburgh University.
Piggott also authored a number of books on archaeology, including titles such as Some Ancient Cities Of India (1944), British Prehistory (1949), Prehistoric India To 1000 BC (1950) and The Druids (1968).
Stuart Piggott met his wife in 1936, at the Institute of Archaeology. She was born Cecily Margaret Preston, but, after marriage, people knew her as Peggy Piggott.
Portrayed by Lily James in The Dig, Peggy was an educated archaeologist and worked with her husband Stuart on unearthing Sutton Hoo. She passed away in 1994, two years before Stuart, who passed away in 1996.
Peggy and Stuart Piggott had no children together.
Stuart Piggott gay? The Dig fans curious
The plot of The Dig insinuates a romance taking place between Piggott and John Brailsford, another excavator, though nothing is spelled out for viewers, just implied.
As for whether the real-life Stuart Piggott was gay, as The Dig viewers are wondering, there is nothing to confirm it. Fans may be disappointed to learn that’s a question we simply can’t answer for sure.
What we do know is that Sutton Hoo is now considered a National trust site and can be visited in Suffolk, England. The image below shows the imprint of the early medieval ship unearthed there.
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