“Archaeology doesn’t have a great history of being a milieu people return to over and over again throughout the history of cinema,” Simon Stone says. It is not that the director of The Dig is forgetting the thrills and spills of the Indiana Jones and Lara Croft series, in which these treasure-seeking heroes spend more time up to their necks in fisticuffs and truck chases than meticulously sifting granules of earth. It is just that he, like the characters in his film, is chasing authentic goods, and viewing archaeologists at their painstaking work perhaps does not scream Friday-night entertainment.
Based on John Preston’s 2007 novel The Dig, the film focuses on the most famous archaeological excavation in Britain in modern times — the unearthing of an Anglo-Saxon burial ship at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, in 1939. Preston began to think of writing up an account in 2005, when he discovered he had a personal attachment to this moment in history.