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Human Remains Detection Dogs as a New Prospecting Method in Archaeology

Abstract

Detecting burial sites in archaeology often involves various prospecting methods such as field survey, ground-penetrating radar (GPR), electrical resistivity, and remote sensing. This paper presents the results of utilizing human remains detection dogs in detecting prehistoric burials dated to the Iron Age in Europe. Human remains detection (HRD) dogs or cadaver dogs are commonly used in criminal cases. However, they are used less frequently for detecting historic burials. Our research was conducted at the burial site of the prehistoric hillfort of Drvišica (Croatia) located on the littoral slope of the Velebit mountains. A total of four HRD dogs were used in both a blinded and double-blinded search. Those locations where an HRD dog produced an indication were subjected to both visual inspection and archaeological excavation. This research has resulted in the discovery of five new prehistoric tombs as well as HRD dogs detecting previously excavated tombs. Therefore, in this paper, we demonstrate that HRD dogs are a valuable tool for locating burials like other non-destructive archaeological search methods.

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Acknowledgements

This project benefited from the Ministry of Croatian Veterans affair, Department for Detainees and Missing Persons, by providing technical support. This project would not be possible without the members of S.PAS Centre such as Chris Nikolić, Zlatko Balaš, and Josip Granić. We are also grateful to Ken Nystrom for reading the paper and improving the manuscript by his comments. We are thankful to Lorna Irish and Ana Bakašun for helping us to improve the English language of the manuscript. And finally, we want to thank sincerely the students and researchers who worked on the excavation of the burial sites.

Funding

This work received financial support from the Ministry of Culture, Republic of Croatia and Karlobag municipality, which provided funds for excavation.

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Correspondence to Vedrana Glavaš.

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Glavaš, V., Pintar, A. Human Remains Detection Dogs as a New Prospecting Method in Archaeology. J Archaeol Method Theory 26, 1106–1124 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10816-018-9406-y

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Keywords

  • Human remains detection (HRD) dogs
  • Cadaver dogs
  • Burial sites
  • Prehistoric burials
  • Archaeological prospection
  • Detection
  • Canine reliability