You can’t convict a killer without a body, and now scientists have discovered a new way to locate hidden graves. They’re also using CSI techniques to determine if ancient peoples wore plaid (or its equivalent).

Experts have discovered almost 500 compounds that dogs can smell that are specifically linked to buried corpses. In, Charles Q. Choi quotes forensic anthropologist Arpad Vass as saying, “The faster you can find graves, the more evidence you can recover.”

Vass isolated these compounds by burying corpses. An average of 30 corpses, in various states of decay, are buried in the 3-acre Anthropological Research Facility at the University of Tennessee, where Vass and his team can identify their odors. Dogs can sniff these from pipes that rise above the graves.

In Corey Binns reports that “fabric swatches dug up from archaeological sites often look like dull brown rags, but archaeologists are putting crime lab techniques to work to uncover the colors, patterns and other revealing features of antiquated textiles.” They are using these techniques to analyze the fabrics create by Native American mound-builder tribes who live in North America around 2,000 years ago.

About his bodies, Vass says, “The most interesting ones are the fluorinated ones. We think these come from a lifetime of drinking fluorinated water and incorporating fluorine into our tissues and bones. As the body breaks down, it releases these compounds, which are very easily detected, since they are very light and come up through the soil easily.” He adds, “It’s not a pleasant smell. You never get used to it.”

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The police are interested in what caused a death, but most of us are interested in what happens afterwards. Our Dreamland co-host William Henry works hard to decipher the science behind the myths and legends of the past to bring us this vital information. Don’t miss his interview with author Gary David on this week?s Dreamland!

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