Dogs are well-known for their heightened sense of smell and are often used by humans for a range of purposes, such as tracking down missing people or thwarting drug smugglers at the airport. Apparently, dogs make pretty decent archaeologists as well.
Trained canines assisted archaeologists with the uncovering of Croatian tombs from almost 3,000 years ago. Thanks to man’s best friend, several tombs with human bones and artefacts inside the tombs were discovered at a fort by the Velebit mountains near the Adriatic coast. Experts believe that utilizing canines could be an effective method for searching archaeological digs, and it will prove much less destructive than regular techniques.
Associate Professor of archaeology at the University of Zadar in Croatia, Vedrana Glavaš, was the lead author of the study. She had already discovered a number of ancient tombs by the fort of Drvišica. With the goal of finding more, Glavaš got in touch with Andrea Pintar, a dog trainer who specializes in the use of canines for locating graves in criminal investigations.
After confirming that Pintar’s Belgian malinois and German shepherds were capable of detecting numerous previously discovered graves that were heavily influenced by the elements, the dogs were set free to explore the surroundings which were thought to contain other remains, and they turned up half a dozen new tombs.
The burial chests that were discovered held small bones within them – most likely the fingers and feet of numerous people – as well as buckles and other items. The team still hasn’t investigated the tombs found in Drvišica, as they lack the time and funding necessary for the excavation.
A new avenue for canine companions
“It would be interesting to push the boundaries on that and see just how old you could get,” says Angela Perri, archaeology researcher at Durham University. “It seems like a pretty great way to move forward in archaeology.”
Perri also studies the history of how men and women initially started to domesticate and use canines. She says that using dogs to analyze archaeological sites is simply the most recent method of applying dogs as biotechnology.
“We’re still finding new ways of having dogs help us,” says Perri.
Glavaš thinks that canine application could benefit archaeologists in a number of varying aspects.
“Many archaeologists are looking for burial sites of settlements,” said Glavaš. “I think dogs can solve their problems.”