Dogs to look for archaeological remains on Port Angeles waterfront; demonstration slated today

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News


PORT ANGELES -- Four furry, four-legged forensics experts will begin sniffing around the Port Angeles waterfront today, seeking signs of ancient Native American remains.

The dogs' weeklong search, through next Monday, will be part of the city's ongoing archaeological survey of 872 acres of waterfront from Ediz Hook to the western edge of the abandoned Rayonier pulp mill property.

The survey, which will lead to an archaeological management plan for the city of Port Angeles and its property owners, is being conducted under a $19,200 contract with the Woodside, Calif.-based Institute for Canine Forensics, said Derek Beery, the city's archaeologist, last week.

"The dogs are trained specifically to smell the residue that's left when a human being decomposes," Beery said.

Exhibit skills

The four dogs -- Eros, a male border collie; Rhea, a female border collie; Alice, a black Labrador; and Riley, a female border collie-Doberman -- will exhibit their skills for the general public at 4:30 p.m. today at Port Angeles City Hall, 321 E. Fifth St., during a presentation that will include a question-and-answer session.

The presentation will include the dogs performing a sample search for teeth purchased online at www.boneroom.com, home Web sit of "The Bone Room," which bills itself as "a natural history store," said Canine Forensics project manager Lynne Angeloro of Discovery Bay.

"You can buy a fully articulated skull for 450 bucks," Angeloro said. "Isn't that bizarre?"

The dogs also will search for gray soil -- dirt impregnated with the scent of human remains and found around coffins -- donated by archaeologists and Native American tribes when they have had to relocate burial.

The teeth and gray soil will be placed near city hall under rocks and buried beneath dirt.

The scent samples will be placed 30 minutes before the demonstration "to give the scent a chance to settle," Angeloro said.

"Human remains have a scent that never, ever goes away, especially a bone, even if it dries out," she added.

The dogs can smell remains that are 9 feet deep and 1,500 to 2,000 years old as long as they aren't buried under concrete, Angeloro said, adding that for every scent receptor a human has, a dog has 10,000.

Will search waterfront

The canines will trot 10 waterfront survey areas of 10 acres each or more to help Beery determine the possible locations of archaeological deposits of likely Native American origin.

If the dogs "alert" to evidence of deposits, the site will be confirmed by a second dog and the location's coordinates marked by a Global Positioning System, Angeloro said last week.

Dog survey data will be compiled by Jan. 1, Beery said.

Beery's overall waterfront survey will include the dog data along with information from maps, studies and environmental predictors such as proximity to water.

He's determining general areas of high, medium and low statistical probability that remains and artifacts are present in certain areas of the waterfront.

Expected to be completed by October 2011, the survey will give landowners, the city of Port Angeles and the Port of Port Angeles an idea of how much they might need to study a site before deciding whether to develop it.

Earlier this year, Beery estimated that 15 percent of the waterfront study area has a high statistical probability of containing Native American artifacts or remains and 35 percent a medium statistical probability.

Next up for the survey will be studying soil formation processes along the waterfront.

"The hope is that the study will give us quite an accurate picture of fill episodes, depths, natural erosion and natural soil formations across the waterfront," Beery said.

"We'll have a better ability to predict how deep the fill is and where that fill came from in the waterfront area."

Tse-whit-zen settlement money

The $19,200 canine project is funded under a state Department of Transportation $8.48 million settlement awarded the city of Port Angeles after the Klallam village of Tse-whit-zen was discovered during the first stages of the agency's $100 million graving yard project on Marine Drive, which the dogs will patrol.

The graving yard project was halted in 2004 after 65,000 artifacts were uncovered and 335 burials unearthed.

Skeletal remains were found jumbled about in fill in what had been a heavily industrialized area.

The city received $7.5 million for economic development, $500,000 to recruit and retain businesses and $480,000 to hire an archaeologist -- Beery.

Beery also monitors all shoreline construction projects -- from digging for power poles to scooping earth for foundations -- for signs of remains and artifacts.

Survey data citing specific potential archaeological locations will be made available to landowners, Beery said.

"The management plan, minus actual locational information, will be made available to the public."

Beery said he did not know if specific locations of potential remains discovered as a result of the canine survey would be made available to the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, whose ancestors lived along the present-day Port Angeles waterfront.

"I haven't talked to enough people to decide how to answer that question yet," Beery said.

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