A three-year-old female black labrador cross named Migaloo has become the world's first trained archaeology dog. Working with Brisbane dog expert Gary Jackson, she is expected to help archaeologists uncover ancient grave sites across Australia. And looking to the future, it's expected that Migaloo and other archaeology dogs will work on excavations at ancient civilization sites in Egypt, the Americas, Asia, and Europe.
And it's all because of the nose. Dogs have a sense of smell that's thousands of times more sensitive than a human's, allowing them to detect even the faintest of odors lying beneath the surface. For archaeology dogs, this means looking for bones. To that end, Migaloo was trained for six months, completing a curriculum that included field trials and a final search test in which she was expected to uncover a 250-year-old skeletal remain from a native burial site.
More impressively, Migaloo recently set a world record for the oldest bone discovered by a dog -- a 600-year-old human bone buried 2 meters (6.6 feet) underground. Her accomplishment beat the previous record by 425 years -- a remarkable achievement that also demonstrated the potential for dogs to locate very old bones at fairly reasonable depths.
Peter Michael of the Courier-Mail reports: "Dogs are known to have such sophisticated olfactory senses they can detect cancer or smell seizures in people, sniff out mobile phones in prisons, or help in therapy, find lost children, criminals, explosives, drugs or people buried under an avalanche of snow, he said.
"We can all see the potential commercial applications in finding animal or human remains going back hundreds and thousands of years, it is just astounding.
"Look at the money that goes into archaeological digs and native title claims.
"SA Museum archaeology researcher Keryn Walshe, who observed the latest search, said the dog found the first of four burial sites within a minute.
"She is an extremely clever little dog, quite amazing, she is certainly on her way to fame and fortune "We gave absolutely no cues, the dog sniffed around and went stood over it, she was spot on.
"We've never heard of fossil dogs, nobody ever thought there would be any scent left on these old bones, nobody thought it could be done."
Her reward, rather than a juicy bone, is a game of catch-and-chase with a tennis ball.
Dvorsky, George. 2012. “Dog Archaeologist Digs for Bones (Not That Kind)”. Discovery News. Posted: September 5, 2012. Available online: http://news.discovery.com/animals/migaloo-dog-archaeologist-120905.html