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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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