He has lain underground for 2,000 years, loyally doing his duty.

But now, archaeologists have unearthed the skeleton of what is believed to be Britain’s oldest guard dog, which was sacrificed to protect a hoard of buried treasure.

The skeleton of the dog, which is about the same size as a retriever or Alsatian, was discovered at the site of one of Britain’s most important Iron Age excavations.

It is believed an ancient tribe, the Corieltauvi, who lived in Britain before the Roman conquest, killed then buried the dog between AD1 and AD50 so its spirit could protect the stockpile.

The find suggests that man’s best friend has long been regarded as a protector and guardian.

The dog’s skeleton will now go on display at a museum along with the treasure - and will be positioned in a glass case at the entrance of the exhibit so it can continue to stand guard.

The dog was discovered in a pit on the Hallaton Treasure site, near Market Harborough, Leicestershire, which became Britain's largest find of Iron Age coins when it was excavated in 2000.

Five thousand gold and silver coins, as well as an ornately-decorated Roman parade helmet, were unearthed in what is regarded as one of the most important Iron Age excavations

The dog’s skeleton was painstakingly pieced together by the University of Leicester's archaeological services, and will go on show at Harborough Museum for the first time this weekend.

Vicki Score, the university's project manager, said: ‘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 would have been considered an honour for the dog, which was probably quite old, to be sacrificed in this way.’

Mrs Score said the skeleton was buried on top of the remains of another dog and there was evidence of a third.

She added: ‘Maybe it was felt the previous guard dog had lost its power to protect.’

David Sprason, of Leicestershire County Council, 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 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.’
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