Just Another Day for the Canine Indiana Jones

Many people with a furry friend have noticed that dogs exhibit a keen interest in the odors of the world, something scent dogs are actually specially bred and trained for. These amazing working dogs have highly refined noses and they’re put to work in settings like airports (for contraband interdiction), disaster sites (for finding victims and survivors), and war zones (for mine sweeping). It requires years of training and a lot of patience, as well as a willing canine. Trainer Gary Jackson decided to put the power of a dog’s sense of smell to the limits to see if it was possible to train a dog to seek out ancient human remains. What he ended up with was the world’s first archaeology dog!

Dogs are already used in the detection of human remains, which put out a very distinct odor signature. Cadaver dogs, as they’re known, can find not just whole human bodies but also body parts, and can detect the site where a human body was stored even if it’s been moved. They’re incredibly valuable for law enforcement and criminal investigation, as well as the tragic task of recovering dead bodies from the sites of disasters. Training them, as you might imagine, can get a little eccentric at times; not everyone drives around with coolers full of (donated!) human remains, after all.

Jackson wanted to know if it was possible for dogs to find ancient human remains, which would be a much tougher task. With all the soft tissue long gone, the classic scent signature might be as well, and the bones are significantly dry. Yet, Migaloo the rescued black lab was willing to give it a go (with a little motivation from her favorite ball), and she’s turned out to be an archaeology star, successfully finding 600-year-old graves. She passed a test in an ancient burial site, used with special permission from Aboriginal elders, with flying colors. Her test case proves that dogs definitely have applications in archaeology, and could become extremely useful team members.

In case you’re wondering, no, Migaloo isn’t allowed to dig up her finds. That delicate task is left to trained archaeologists who can safely extract bones along with objects of interest in their substrate, carefully filtering through dirt and other materials to remove fragments of beads, material, and other man-made materials while preserving the integrity of the bone as much as possible.

So the next time you see a dog sniffing around at an archaeological dig, don’t be so quick to assume it’s someone’s pet along for the work day…

Related articles:

Take Your Dog To Work Day: One Dog’s Office Tale

Norm’s Story — From Rescue To Service Dog

Lifeguard Dogs of Italy

Photo credit: pmarkham


natasha p
Past Member 15 days ago


Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W4 years ago

thank you

Threasa Byrd
Threasa Byrd5 years ago

Migaloo is awesome. Thank you for sharing this amazing dogs story.

Alicia Guevara
Alicia Guevara5 years ago

Wowow... Good idea. Tks.

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Andrew C.
Andrew C5 years ago

Very cool. The abilites of our canine friends never ceases to amaze me.

Sheri D.
Sheri D5 years ago


Gary J.
Gary J.5 years ago

Thank you for your kind comments, As Migaloo's owner and trainer I am aware of other cadaver dogs searching for historic sites. Migaloo was trained specifically for archaeology sites on old bone, Migaloo is not a cadaver dog. More info on migaloo at www.youtube.com/garymnk9 we have another big anouncement on Migaloo this week as she rewrites history again.

Gary Jackson

Magdalen B.
Magdalen B5 years ago


Isabel Araujo
Isabel Araujo5 years ago

Migaloo, you are great! *_*