Illness brought down early human rival: scientist

Published 07.07.09 10:00


Scientists seeking to uncover the mystery of what happened to the Neanderthals should look to the modus operandi of another great die-off 30,000 years later, argues a Danish expert in an article submitted to the Journal of Archaeological Science.


In the article, professor emeritus Bent Sørensen of the University of Roskilde wrote that disease carried by Homo sapiens migrating out of Africa was responsible for the gradual extinction of our prehistoric cousins in the same way that European illnesses ravaged Native American populations in the sixteenth century.


‘Modern humans brought illnesses they could survive themselves, but for Neanderthals they were deadly,’ Sørensen said.


Sørensen’s article challenges the leading theories about why Neanderthals disappeared from Europe 30,000 years ago.


Those theories suggest that the stockier Neanderthals were unable to adapt to a changing climate or that they were killed off as humans encroached on their territory. But according to Sørensen, skeletal remains show no conclusive evidence that Neanderthals had been killed as a result of violence caused by humans.


He hopes efforts currently underway to map the DNA from the remains of a 38,000 year-old Neanderthal found in Croatia can uncover evidence to support his theory.


Similar methods, he said, have been used to identify tuberculosis in 5,000 year-old remains discovered in Egypt.



Iran's largest Paleolithic site found in Semnan

Sat, 11 Jul 2009 17:07:53 GMT


Archeologists have found Iran's largest Paleolithic area in the Mirk hill, located in the southern part of the city of Semnan.


Dating back to the middle-Paleolithic era, the 4-hectare area has yielded numerous ancient objects belonging to Neanderthals.


“Studies show that Paleolithic people had been living in this region between 40,000 to 200,000 years ago,” said head of the archeology team Hamed Vahdatinasab.


“The area is very important in the sense that it is the largest of its kind in Iran and the Middle East and houses thousands of ancient stone tools,” he added.


Vahdatinasab also said that the source of stone for the inhabitants was found 16-kilometers from the site in the hillsides looking onto Semnan.


The recent finds were discovered during archeological studies in the natural hills of Delazeyan and Mirk, which were first excavated around 1984.



Jewelry of the Parion Princess unearthed


ÇANAKKALE - Archaeologists in the Turkish Aegean town of Çanakkale are celebrating the new discovery of a 2,200-year-old sarcophagus in the ancient city of Parion, one of the most important centers of the Helenistic era.


Golden earrings, rings and crown pieces have been found in the sarcophagus, which is believed to have belonged to a princess. An archeological team headed by Prof. Cevat Başaran unearthed the sarcophagus three days ago during excavations conducted in the village of Kemer near Biga, northeast of Çanakkale.


"We have discovered an important finding at the necropolis, which is the cemetery of the ancient city," Başaran said. "This grave is most likely 2,200 years old. The golden jewelry shows this is the grave of a rich woman. We may call her the ’Princess of Parion.’"


Başaran pointed out that the sarcophagus contained a golden crown adorned with many gems, two golden earrings bearing the symbol of Eros and two golden rings. One of the rings was still on the finger bone of the skeleton, the professor added, noting that most of the bones were ruined due to moisture caused by the grave’s proximity to the sea.


Approximately 200 graves have been excavated at the ancient city of Parion. Other unearthed findings include "gifts for the dead," such as teardrop bottles, oil lamps and toys.


Based on the findings, Başaran said he believes Parion was a glorious city ruled by the rich elite of the Hellenistic age. Excavations have been going on there for the past four years and have also unearthed jewelry believed to belong to the king and queen.



Mummy Murder Mystery Deepens After Scans

12:01am UK, Wednesday July 08, 2009

David Crabtree, Midlands correspondent


Amazing new pictures have been released of attempts to unravel a 1,700-year-old murder mystery.


But even state-of-the-art 21st century techniques have been foiled by the case.


Three Egyptian mummies from Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery were scanned in a quest for more information on the circumstances surrounding their deaths.


Museum staff wanted to learn more about a 'metallic' object in the neck of a Graeco-Roman mummy, discovered on x-rays in 1995, with suggestions it may have been an arrow-head.


Instead, the scans have revealed the object is in fact one of three or four fragments - probably metal - lodged in the base of the skull.


So the mystery remains.


The scans were arranged by Bob Loynes, previously an orthopaedic consultant at Mid-Staffs Hospital, and a keen Egyptologist.


In the past, it has been necessary to unwrap mummies to carry out investigations, but this risky process can now be avoided.


Mr Loynes said: "The opportunity to help with the further investigation of these mummies was a very exciting one for me.


"The CT Scans have shown amazing details, which have produced as many questions as they have given answers."


Scans of the second mummy, that of Padimut, priest of the goddess Mut and probably of the 21st Dynasty (1085-935 BC), showed evidence of high quality mummification - including removal of the brain and plates in front of the eyes.


Investigations into the third mummy threw up another mystery.


The mummy, from the Namenkhetamun of the 26th Dynasty (664-525BC), was described as 'the daughter of Amunkhau' on the coffin lid.


But the scan has revealed the mummy is male.


Researchers also discovered another mystery - an unexplained hole in the mummy's back, about the size of a fist.


Curator Adam Jaffer concluded: "This scanning has produced views of the museum's mummies which have never been seen before. We have been able to 'virtually unwrap' them without causing any damage.


"However, scanning poses new questions about the life and death of these ancient Egyptians which we will try to find the answers for."



2,000-year-old cream shows aristocrat’s taste

Tuscan discovery was found almost intact in a cosmetics case

This ancient ointment was found to have a high abundance of fatty acids. It also contained natural resins and moringa oil, which was one of the ingredients in a recipe for a perfume for ancient royalty. The researchers also believe that the lotion was imported.

By Rossella Lorenzi

updated 7:15 p.m. ET July 10, 2009


Italian archaeologists have discovered lotion that is over 2,000 years old, left almost intact in the cosmetic case of an aristocratic Etruscan woman.


The discovery, which occurred four years ago in a necropolis near the Tuscan town of Chiusi, has just been made public, following chemical analysis which identified the original compounds of the ancient ointment. The team reports their findings in the July issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.


Dating to the second half of the second century B.C., the intact tomb was found sealed by a large terracotta tile. The site featured a red-purple painted inscription with the name of the deceased: Thana Presnti Plecunia Umranalisa.


"From the formula of the name, we learn that Thana Plecunia was the daughter of a lady named Umranei, a member of one of the most important aristocratic families of Chiusi," the researchers wrote.


Indeed, the wide rectangular niche tomb certainly represents the noble origins of the deceased.


The ashes of Thana rested in a small travertine urn, decorated with luxuriant foliate elements and the head of a female goddess, most likely the Etruscan Earth goddess Cel Ati.


Nearby, the archaeologists found a cosmetic case, richly decorated with bone, ivory, tin and bronze elements. The feet of the box featured bone carved in the shape of Sirens.


The case was filled with precious personal objects: a couple of bronze finger rings, a pair of tweezers, two combs and an alabaster unguentarium vessel — a vase-shaped jar — of Egyptian origins.


"The entire content of the cosmetic case was found under a clay layer which deposited throughout time. This made it possible for the ointment to survive almost intact despite (the fact that) the vessel had no cap," Erika Ribechini, a researcher at the department of chemistry and industrial chemistry of Pisa University, told Discovery News.


Solid, homogeneous and pale yellow, the ointment revealed fatty acids in high abundance.


"This is almost unique in archaeology. Even though more than 2,000 years have passed, the oxidation of the organic material has not yet been completed. This is most likely due to the sealing of the alabaster unguentarium by the clayish earth, which prevented contact with oxygen," Ribechini said.


After analyzing the material, the researchers established that the contents of the vessel consisted of a mixture of substances of lipids and resins.


"The natural resins were the pine resin, exudated from Pinaceae, and the mastic resin, from Anacardiaceae trees. The lipid was a vegetable oil, most likely moringa oil, which was used by the Egyptians and Greeks to produce ointments and perfumes," Ribechini said.


Also called myrobalan oil, moringa oil was mentioned by Roman scholar Pliny the Elder (23 A.D. - 79 A.D.) in his celebrated Natural History as one of the ingredients in the recipe of a "regal perfume" for the king of Parthes.


Since moringa trees were not found in Italy — they are native to Sudan and Egypt — and given the Egyptian origins of the alabaster unguentarium, the researchers concluded that the ointment was imported to Etruria.


"The imported Egyptian unguentarium and its exotic ointment attest to the high social rank to which Thana Plecunia and her family belonged. ... (The cosmetic case) probably commemorated an important moment in the life of this aristocratic woman, namely, her wedding," the researchers concluded.


According to Ilaria Bonaduce, a researcher at the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry of Pisa University who was not involved in the study, the research is particularly important as it demonstrates the role of chemical analysis in archaeology.


"The reconstruction of the origin and function of the object should also consider its chemical content. In this case, the analysis suggests that the ointment was imported into Etruria with the ointment already prepared in Egypt," Bonaduce told Discovery News.


© 2009 Discovery Channel


Science 10 July 2009:

Vol. 325. no. 5937, p. 148

DOI: 10.1126/science.1167531



Students uncover hundreds of Iron Age remains

Thursday, 09 July 2009 14:14 KR News


There was a sensational find when Århus archaeology students uncovered the bones of around 200 bodies dating from the Iron Age


What was supposed to be a simple three week long research exercise for archaeology students at the University of Aarhus developed into a unique excavation project.


Remains of more than 200 bodies have been found at the dig site near Skanderborg in Jutland dating from around 2,000 years ago.

The Illerup River Valley was a deep lake measuring about 10 hectares during the Iron Age and archaeology digs have established that it was used as a major sacrificial site during that period.


The area, which is a popular location for archaeologists, is now a mixture of bog and meadow, much of which is subject to conservation laws.


The student dig began on 20 June and almost immediately began turning up human remains.


‘This was a defeated army that was sacrificed to the lake at the time. The majority of remains are large arm and leg bones, skulls, shoulder blades and pelvises,’ said Ejvind Hertz, curator from Skanderborg Museum and excavation leader.


According to Hertz, the 200 victims found so far are just a small fragment of what lies in the area, which has only been partially excavated, and estimates suggest that the figure could run to well over one thousand.


The valley was first drained in 1950 and subsequently studied intensely by archaeology teams between 1975 and 1985, when around 15,000 weapons and military objects were discovered.


Hertz said the latest find is unique as it is unusual to find the bones of sacrificial victims without their weapons.


‘It is very unusual as there has been no other find of this size before in Western Europe,’ Hertz told The Copenhagen Post.


Hertz believes the new discovery points to the river valley being used as a major sacrificial site.


‘You could consider the Illerup river valley as a central holy place. There was one god that victims were sacrificed to and another god further along the valley that received sacrificed weapons.’


The excavation was extended to four weeks and archaeologists are in the process of removing the bodies. Hertz said they hope the dig will act as a preliminary survey for a much larger, extensive excavation in the future.



Comment on "DNA from Pre-Clovis Human Coprolites in Oregon, North America"

Paul Goldberg,1,2,* Francesco Berna,1,3 Richard I. Macphail1,4


Gilbert et al. (Reports, 9 May 2008, p. 786) presented DNA analysis of coprolites recovered from an Oregon cave as evidence for a human presence in North America before the Clovis culture. Results of our micromorphological and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy analyses of one of the reported coprolites are difficult to reconcile with the DNA results identifying the coprolite as human.


1 Department of Archaeology, Boston University, 675 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA.

2 Zentrum für Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie, Universität Tübingen, Rümelinstraße 23, 72070 Tübingen, Germany.

3 Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra "Ardito Desio," Università degli Studi di Milano, Via Mangiagalli 34, 20133 Milano, Italy.

4 Institute of Archaeology, University College London, Gordon Square, London WC1 0PY, UK.


* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: paulberg@bu.edu


Gilbert et al. (1) report the recovery, dating, and DNA analysis of coprolites from Paisley Cave, Oregon, which they ascribe to a human presence in North America about 1000 years before the Clovis culture. In 2007, the authors of the study asked us to perform micromorphological and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy analyses on one of the coprolite specimens (1374-5/5D-31-2), but our results were not included in the published report (1). Here, we present the results of our 2007 analyses, as well as analysis of a second subsample of specimen 1374-5/5D-31-2, supplied by Gilbert et al. in 2009.


The subsamples we examined in 2007 and 2009 were described as follows (2): This specimen was found on the edge of the "bone pit" that included camel, horse, and sheep bones, a horse hoof, and other items. It is 27 mm long by 25 mm wide by 15 mm thick and appears to have an exterior surface on one side. Constituents include vegetation, feathers or fibers of some kind, small bones, and some dirt. Sample preparation, manufacture of thin sections, and micromorphological examination were carried out using protocols established in (3) and the supporting online material. The use of micromorphology (the study of intact sediments, soils, and materials) was a natural analytical procedure because it uses intact pieces of sample, which preserves the integrity and initial geometric arrangement of all of the components within the sample (3).


Microscopic evaluation of the 2007 subsample (Fig. 1) revealed the predominance of fibrous, elongated vegetative fragments, including some phytoliths. Its external morphology resembled that of herbivore dung pellets, including the typical stained outer surface (4, 5). Internally, the coarse character of the plant fibers, as observed in reference thin sections of herbivore dung (e.g., camel, cattle, goat, mouflon sheep, and sheep) and as reported from the dung of browsers (6, 7), is also consistent with that of herbivores. The FTIR analysis shows the presence of silicates (in the 450 to 1100 cm–1 region) and organic material (in the 1300 to 4000 cm–1 region), which are compatible with decayed organic compounds; no minerogenic phosphate was noted (Fig. 2). If phosphate is present, it is likely to be in a dominantly organic form and in low quantities (0.565% P), as is typical of dry farmyard manure [table 11.1 in (8)]. Examples of human coprolites and cess (mineralized sewage) are phosphate rich, containing 8 to 14% P and mean 6.57% P, respectively (9).


The 2009 coprolite subsample was much smaller than the first, and it appeared as a layered crust with mineral inclusions; it also contained plant and feather fragments (figs. S1 and S2). The micromorphological analysis is again dominated by organic material (fig. S1). Very long stained plant fibers occur as an open layered structure, with occasional intercalated mineral grains (e.g., quartz). The organic matter groundmass is impregnated with micritic calcite. Overall, the micromorphological findings are compatible with those of the subsample analyzed in 2007. FTIR analyses of the bulk powdered portion and the area examined in thin section again revealed no phosphate minerals but confirmed the presence of gypsum, organic matter, quartz, clay minerals (kaolinite), and calcite (fig. S2). FTIR analysis of the feather (fig. S2) showed that the keratin is very well preserved, indicating that it is likely to be an external inclusion and did not pass through the digestive tract of a carnivore.


Interestingly, no absorption of carbonate hydroxyl apatite was present in either sample (although calcite minerals had formed in the second sample), nor was any typically yellowish amorphous cementing material observed in either thin section that could suggest a human or carnivore origin (fig. S4) [figure 3 in (10), figure IVa in (3)]. All carnivores and many omnivores, such as humans, produce calcium phosphate–rich coprolites (e.g., 18 to 34% Ca and 8 to 14% P) [appendix 1 in (9)], which in thin sections occur as yellowish isotropic domains that typically autofluoresce under blue light excitation (11). Although it is true that poor human diets can include large amounts of fiber (12), and large amounts of plant material such as seed remains have been found in the mummified intestines of mummies, this plant material may often still contain cellulose, which is birefringent under crossed polarized light. Humans are poorly equipped to break down cellulose, unlike herbivores; the organic material in the Paisley coprolite is mainly humified and nonbirefringent.


In sum, the subsamples of coprolite specimen 1374-5/5D-31-2 that we examined do not resemble previously described human or carnivore coprolites. The overwhelming abundance of vegetal remains (generally elongated), associated phytoliths, and lack of phosphate points to the specimen being from an herbivore (fig. S4) [figures 2 to 4 in (4); (5)]. The 2007 subsample resembles fragments of dung pellets, whereas the 2009 subsample has the layered character of trampled dung found where herbivores gather or are in relatively confined spaces (5, 13). Both sets of micromorphological and FTIR findings are incompatible with the coprolite specimen 1374-5/5D-31-2 being of human origin, and thus are inconsistent with the DNA results presented in (1).


Supporting Online Material




Materials and Methods


Figs. S1 to S4




References and Notes


    * 1. M. T. P. Gilbert et al., Science 320, 786 (2008). [Abstract/Free Full Text]

    * 2. D. Jenkins, personal communication.

    * 3. M.-A. Courty, P. Goldberg, R. I. Macphail, Soils and Micromorphology in Archaeology (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 1989).

    * 4. Ö. Akeret, P. Rentzel, Geoarchaeology 16, 687 (2001). [CrossRef] [Web of Science]

    * 5. R. Shahack-Gross, F. Marshall, S. Weiner, J. Archaeol. Sci. 30, 439 (2003). [CrossRef] [Web of Science]

    * 6. M. Clauss, M. Lechner-Doll, W. J. Streich, Oecologia 131, 343 (2002). [CrossRef] [Web of Science]

    * 7. R. D. Shaver, A. J. Nytes, L. D. Satter, N. A. Jorgensen, J. Dairy Sci. 71, 1566 (1988).[Abstract/Free Full Text]

    * 8. R. E. White, Introduction to Principles and Practice of Soil Science (Blackwell, Oxford, 1987).

    * 9. R. I. Macphail, in Potterne 1982-5: Animal Husbandry in Later Prehistoric Wiltshire, A. J. Lawson, Ed. (Wessex Archaeology, Salisbury, 2000), Archaeology Report No. 17, pp. 47–70.

    * 10. R. I. Macphail, M. A. Courty, P. Goldberg, Endeavour 14, 163 (1990). [CrossRef] [Web of Science]

    * 11. H. J. Altemüller, B. Van Vliet-Lanoe, in Soil Micromorphology: A Basic and Applied Science, L. A. Douglas, Ed. (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1990), pp. 565–579.

    * 12. J. Caroline, M. S. Gross, D.-M. Spillman, Pak. J. Biol. Sci. 6, 1564 (2003). [CrossRef]

    * 13. R. I. Macphail, G. M. Cruise, M. J. Allen, J. Linderholm, P. Reynolds, J. Archaeol. Sci. 31, 175 (2004). [CrossRef] [Web of Science]

    * 14. The infrared spectroscopy data furnished here was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation to P. Goldberg (BCS 0551927) and the support by a Marie Curie International Fellowship within the 6th European Community Framework Programme to F. Berna (MOIFCT-2006-041053).


Received for publication 22 October 2008. Accepted for publication 16 June 2009.


The editors suggest the following Related Resources on Science sites:

In Science Magazine



Comment on "DNA from Pre-Clovis Human Coprolites in Oregon, North America"

    Hendrik Poinar, Stuart Fiedel, Christine E. King, Alison M. Devault, Kirsti Bos, Melanie Kuch, and Regis Debruyne (10 July 2009)

    Science 325 (5937), 148-a. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1168182]

     |  Abstract »  |  Full Text »  |  PDF »



Response to Comment by Poinar et al. on "DNA from Pre-Clovis Human Coprolites in Oregon, North America"

    M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Dennis L. Jenkins, Thomas F. G. Higham, Morten Rasmussen, Helena Malmström, Emma M. Svensson, Juan J. Sanchez, Linda Scott Cummings, Robert M. Yohe, II, Michael Hofreiter, Anders Götherström, and Eske Willerslev (10 July 2009)

    Science 325 (5937), 148-b. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1168457]

     |  Abstract »  |  Full Text »  |  PDF »



Response to Comment by Goldberg et al. on "DNA from Pre-Clovis Human Coprolites in Oregon, North America"

    Morten Rasmussen, Linda Scott Cummings, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Vaughn Bryant, Colin Smith, Dennis L. Jenkins, and Eske Willerslev (10 July 2009)

    Science 325 (5937), 148-d. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1167672]

     |  Abstract »  |  Full Text »  |  PDF »  |  Supporting Online Material »



DNA from Pre-Clovis Human Coprolites in Oregon, North America

    M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Dennis L. Jenkins, Anders Götherstrom, Nuria Naveran, Juan J. Sanchez, Michael Hofreiter, Philip Francis Thomsen, Jonas Binladen, Thomas F. G. Higham, Robert M. Yohe, II, Robert Parr, Linda Scott Cummings, and Eske Willerslev (9 May 2008)

    Science 320 (5877), 786. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1154116]

     |  Abstract »  |  Full Text »  |  PDF »  |  Supporting Online Material »



Specially trained dogs to be used in Port Angeles archaeological survey

By Paul Gottlieb

Peninsula Daily News


PORT ANGELES -- The city's archaeologist, Derek Beery, intends to employ specially trained dogs to sniff for human remains at least a century old for his ongoing waterfront archaeological survey.


He is drafting requests for proposals for dogs and handlers schooled in "canine forensics," he said.


Beery said the contract probably will be advertised this week.


"Historical human remains detection dogs" are specially trained to detect buried remains more than 100 years old, said Adela Morris, founder and president of the Institute for Canine Forensics, a Woodside, Calif.-based nonprofit organization founded in 1989.


The canines would trot and sniff through Beery's 872-acre archaeological survey study area -- a three-mile stretch from Ediz Hook up to and including the site of the former Rayonier pulp mill.


Beery already has a good idea of where human bones and other remains may lie buried.


He used maps, studies, and environmental predictors such as proximity to water and available sunlight to determine general areas of high-, medium- and low-statistical probability that remains and artifacts exist.


He'sestimated 15 percent of the waterfront has a high statistical probability of containing Native American artifacts or remains and 35 percent a medium probability.


Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles said she was "not surprised" at the 50 percent medium or high probability of finding artifacts or remains and supported using canine forensics for the architectural survey as part of "a case-by-case process."


Klallam people settled along the Port Angeles and Strait of Juan de Fuca shoreline thousands of years ago.


Beery said if a canine forensics contract is awarded, "we'd look for hot spots."


He predicted the dogs would go to work this fall, since they work best in wetter weather.


"This is not something that has been widely done up to this point in archaeology," he said. "We are going to give it a shot."


Private and public developers would use the survey and a yet-to-be-written management plan for a sense of how much they would need to study a site before deciding whether to develop it.


State and federal law can require higher levels of development review for areas that are believed to contain artifacts and remains.


Beery would not say where he believes archaeological deposits exist.


But artifacts and a burial site are believed to exist at the village site of Y'ennis, where the Rayonier pulp mill once stood, and they are known to exist on Marine Drive at the construction site of the state Department of Transportation's failed graving yard.


That project was abandoned in 2004 at a cost of more than $90 million after the Klallam village of Tse-whit-zen was unearthed, and with it, more than 300 complete burial remains and more than 10,000 bones, bone fragments and artifacts.


Two archaeological studies failed to fathom the breadth of archaeology at the site.


The first study, before digging began, concluded no artifacts and remains were at the site.


Within the first month of construction, artifacts and remains were discovered.


The second survey concluded there were about two dozen burials, and work resumed.


More than 300 complete burials eventually were uncovered before the project was shut down for good little more than a year after the first soil was turned.


Morris, a former zookeeper, said in a telephone interview that she was contacted by an archaeologist who was working the Marine Drive site in 2003 when the project first started.


"I was contacted before the disaster struck," Morris said.


Negotiations to come to Port Angeles had advanced to the point where she was looking for flights "and thinking how to do this," she said.


"They decided at the time not to use the dogs and to stay with the traditional methods," Morris recalled.


"They were concerned about money, and that here's a technique that has not been at that time 'tried and trued' for archaeological work for human burials.


"When you look back at what happened, you think, 'Could we have made a difference?'"


About 100 graves were found at one burial site on the property.


But Charles said the soil at Tse-whit-zen was too churned up from repeated industrial development to have made canine forensics effective.


Morris agreed that the dogs are not as able to pinpoint graves when bones are dispersed.


"What we would see the dogs do is, they will give us a huge area of where the scent is," she said.


Morris said few dogs are trained to do the work, which the dogs must do in a slow, methodical manner.


"Besides our nine certified dogs, I know of 10 more dogs in the world who have done this work," Morris said.


"It is a very small community."


Her dogs are trained for six months to two years, depending on the dog's age.


When dogs discover buried remains, they "alert," or sit at the spot.


They are trained to detect bones of at least 100 years old, but the dogs' noses must be in contact with the ground surface -- they can't detect through concrete.


They've identified a grave dating to 450 A.D., which was buried 5 feet deep, she said.


That site was "the oldest known ever to be located by a dog," Morris said.


"There are able to pinpoint graves better because everything is contained," she said.


They also work better when employed in conjunction with ground-penetrating radar, she said.


Morris and her dogs have been discovering buried human remains for law enforcement agencies for more than 25 years, she said.


"We know it works, but for the archaeological world, this is like a very new, weird concept."


"Three papers are coming out" authored by archaeologists that will further validate her dogs' work, Morris added.


Morris said her dogs are not cadaver dogs, which are geared toward search-and-rescue missions and detecting fresh human remains.


Her dogs include a German shepherd, an Australian shepherd, border collies and mixed breeds.


"You want a high-drive dog who wants to do something," Morris said.


The institute frequently works with Native American tribes, Morris added.


"They know there are burials in given areas," Morris said.


"We will work the dogs, the dogs will be alerting, and [the tribe] will have no interest in digging them up. To them, that would be very disruptive, bad karma.


"We done lots of projects where they know there are burials, but they don't know where they are.


"The dogs say they are here, and the Native Americans say, 'That's good enough for us. You are not going to build here.'"




Staff writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.