Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dogs and Archaeology

Before I get into the real subject today, a little mea culpa.
I meant to note before the weekend that I rarely turn my computer on over the weekend. Apparently I'm one of the last few troglodyte holdouts on this issue, but there it is, so don't expect posts over weekends.
Then, as it turns out, I was quite ill Sunday night and didn't sleep, so was in a total fog on Monday, and didn't post here. (It probably wouldn't have made any sense if I did.)
So I'm not even a week into the new blog, and I've already broken my promise to post regularly. Sigh. Just goes to show that I'm only human and not up to the faithfulness standards of dogs. But I'll continue to try to do my best.

Anyway, as for archaeology and dogs. . .
I'm continually amazed at the many things dogs can do for us, a large proportion of those tasks relying on their infinitely superior sense of smell. I'm well acquainted with police work (I'll write more about that in a future blog) and medical alert dogs and dogs sniffing out poop of various kinds for environmental work and dogs sniffing for termites or mold in houses. But this was a new one on me.
Here in Port Angeles we had a rather large snafu a few years ago when some Port of Port Angeles property along the Strait of Juan de Fuca was selected for fabricating parts of the replacement for the Hood Canal floating bridge. It was a multi-million dollar project, supposed to provide nearly 200 jobs to Port Angeles (which always lacks for jobs of any kind), and so, I think, was rushed through just a bit. You see, the archaeological assessment done before the work began showed no artifacts of any significance. Except that within a couple of days of beginning to dig, not just artifacts but human remains began turning up on a regular basis. Work was halted, then restarted, then halted, until the local tribe finally said that's enough, these are our ancestors you're shoveling out of the ground, and the project was scrapped.
It cost millions of dollars in preliminary work, followed by millions of dollars in moneys paid to the tribe, the port, the city, and the work was taken elsewhere (along with the jobs).
Now talk is livening up about what to do with the former Rayonier mill site, also on the Strait, on the other side of town. As with the first site, if anyone had bothered to really ask, there is plenty of local oral history to indicate that there was once a thriving native settlement here.
But the new wrinkle in the works this time is that there has been some discussion of bringing a special dog team here to sniff for archaeological evidence. . . specifically human remains. Now, I've certainly well aware of cadaver dogs, but these dogs would be attempting to find burials that are hundreds of years old, and the handlers assure everyone that the dogs can do it.
I don't know if the authorities will actually hire the dogs and handlers or not. The matter was raised, made the paper for a day, then disappeared from public discussion. But if these dogs can do what their handlers say, it would certainly save a lot of time, money, and grief for all involved.
Hurrah for the fine canine nose and for the innovative people who have put it to such good uses.

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