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Guidance on the Use of Historic Human Remains Detection Dogs for Locating Unmarked Cemeteries

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Technical Report

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U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Champaign United States

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Human burial sites form a unique class of archeological site. Local civilian populations tend to have strong emotional ties to historic cemeteries, and Native American cemeteries are given special protection under federal law. Standard operating procedures on most if not all government installations is to identify and protect in situ all known locations of human burials. The location of many cemeteries, however, is unknown due to a lack of recognizable visual cues such as grave markers. Because the sites must be investigated without excavation, archaeologists have traditionally used geophysical survey as a noninvasive technique to locate lost cemeteries. A recent development in noninvasive grave location techniques is the use of Historic Human Remains Detection HHRD dogs. These dogs are specially trained to detect the scent of buried human bones. Proponents of this techniques claim the dogs can differentiate between human and animal bones and can detect graves exceeding 100 years of age and located up to 6 feet beneath the surface. Determining the effectiveness of HHRD dog surveys is problematic because ground truthing is rarely allowed. This report describes a scientific study testing the effectiveness of HHRD dogs and comparing HHRD dog results against geophysical survey results at multiple, unmarked, burial sites.

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