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Rescue Dog Re-Use

by Bruno Van de Casteele

January 6, 2013

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Donate I guess archeologists are very much underfunded ... at least it shows in the re-use they make of tools in other disciplines. I have heard about archeology departments accepting with great pleasure "old" CT scanners from hospitals. These scanners still work but are no longer state-of-the-art for medical purposes. They are still very much usable in archeology. (Look here for an example solving a 1900 year death, its use in terracotta analysis, and finally a brief history of it in archeology)

Another example is this rescue dog from Australia. He has a talent to sniff out human bones. Especially centuries-old ones, and even when buried deep. The dog was first trained on human bones from a museum, and has already shown to be able a previously unknown 600-year-old grave. Interesting!

Not sure if this is just anecdotal evidence, but it seems plausible. Also, it should be very straightforward to test this double-blind: bury human bones and stone artefacts on a terrain (to give the same impression on the surface), make sure there are no bystanders who know what is where, and give the trainer a blindfold if he really has to go with the dog.

Someone in the comments of the previous link remarked that this is not a first. There seem to be already 18 dogs certified for "Historical Human Remains Detection".

There is one difference however with the CT-example. These dogs are state of the art, and require extensive training (2-3 years) to be able to do so. From the looks of it, they might also be able to look for recent human remains, but I'm not really sure how specialized these dogs become. Still, a nice addition to the trowel toolkit of an archeologist.

by Bruno Van de Casteele

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