Canine Effects on the Archaeological Record

Although many archaeologists are aware of the effects that biological agents can have on the archaeological record, the activities that canines engage in have been underestimated.

Beginning in 1994, Robert Jeske and Lawrence Kuznar began to take a serious look at how dogs dig in and around human activity areas. Using a combination of ethnoarchaeological observations (Kuznar has worked with the Navajo and with Aymara pastoralists of Andean Peru), ethological observations of their own dogs, and excavation of dog-produced pits, Jeske and Kuznar documented that archaeological pit features found at sites are probably misidentified and disturbed to a much greater extent than most archaeologists assume. Their findings were eventually published in the Journal of Field Archaeology in 2001. Wolf sitting on a rock

April Gaff expanded upon the Jeske/Kuznar dog work with an examination of wolves at a small preserve in Indiana for her UWM Master's thesis in 1999, also demonstrating the large size and convincing nature of pits dug by canines. For the last two years, Roberta Boczkiewicz has worked with Jeske on a longer-term study of the five-member wolf pack at the Milwaukee County Zoo. With the help of the Zoo's wolf team, Jeske and Boczkiewicz have observed the wolf behavior, noting when and how they excavate pits in their territory.

In the spring of 2003, they looked at how wolves might affect faunal assemblages, using a form of input/output analysis. First, the zookeepers cleaned the wolf yard of all scat, then fed the wolves a dinner of rats and rabbits. Two days later, the wolf team collected newly deposited scat, and happily gave a large bucket of it to Boczkiewicz. Boczkiewicz brought the material into the lab, where she processed it and identified the remaining bone. She was able to note the damage done to bone as it passes through a wolf's digestive system, and she was also able to determine that the wolves fed on voles, chipmunk and a goose (not a planned part of the zoo diet!).

Kira Kaufmann mapping wolf pits at the Milwaukee ZooIn the fall of 2003, Kira Kaufmann and SungWoo Park helped out with the project by using a total data station to locate the wolf pits while Jeske mapped and profiled the features. We are looking forward to investigating other facets of canine-human interaction and how they affect the archaeological record.

An article on the use of analogic reasoning and ethnoarchaeological data, which included an analysis of wolf and dog pit attributes, was published by Kuznar and Jeske in the Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association in 2006.