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’0.07764
Archaeological 22 696 0.9133 0.8342 0.629
birds
’0.06826
Archaeological 35 764 0.8963 0.8034 0.5561
mammals



skeletal elements (including isolated teeth, ignoring side differences and fragments)
of a typical mammal skeleton. In a detailed study of an archaeological avifauna,
Broughton (2004) identi¬ed sixteen kinds of skeletal elements across forty-six genera.
This anecdotal information suggests Bobrowsky (1982) may have been correct.
Klein and Cruz-Uribe™s (1984) concern about fragmentation, and Bobrowsky™s
(1982) concern about intertaxonomic variation in the number of identi¬able ele-
ments per skeleton both concern variables that in¬‚uence the ratio NISP:MNI. Keep-
ing these variables in mind, I compiled NISP“MNI data pairs for paleozoological
assemblages in North America (the data to which I have the easiest access). To keep the
intertaxonomic variable simple, I compiled data for only birds and mammals. I also
compiled and kept separate data for both paleontological and archaeological avian
and mammalian assemblages. My reason for doing so was that it seemed reasonable to
suppose that remains of animals from archaeological assemblages, particularly those
of mammals but perhaps not those of birds, would be more fragmented than the
faunal remains in paleontological collections. It is, after all, well known that human
butchers tend to break bones with some regularity (e.g., Noe-Nygaard 1977; Thomas
1971 ). By de¬nition a human taphonomic agent had not in¬‚uenced paleontological
collections.
Descriptive statistics for the four sets of data are summarized in Table 8.1 . There
are several things that need to be considered here. First, graphs of the relationships
between NISP and MNI in the four assemblages indicate that the log-transformed
data describe a straight line. The straight-line relationship is apparent for the paleon-
tological bird remains (Figure 8.1 ), the paleontological mammal remains (Figure 8.2),
figure 8.1. Relationship between NISP and MNI in seven paleontological assemblages
of bird remains from North America. The number of data points is 265; not all are visible
because of duplication and overlap.




figure 8.2. Relationship between NISP and MNI in eleven paleontological assemblages
of mammal remains from North America. The number of data points is 360; not all are
visible because of duplication and overlap.
¬nal thoughts 305




figure 8.3. Relationship between NISP and MNI in twenty-two archaeological assem-
blages of bird remains from North America. The number of data points is 696; not all are
visible because of duplication and overlap.



the archaeological avian remains (Figure 8.3), and the archaeological mammal
remains (Figure 8.4). The lines plotted in these graphs should by now be familiar;
they are simple best-¬t regression lines described by the formula Y = aX b , where X
is the independent variable (log NISP), Y is the dependent variable (log MNI), a is
the Y intercept (it should be zero, given that a zero value for NISP must produce a
zero value for MNI; note that all empirically determined values are quite close to zero
[Table 8.1 ]), and b is the slope of the line. Variables a and b are constants determined
empirically for each data set. In all cases, the relationship between NISP and MNI
is statistically signi¬cant (p < 0.0001) and variation in NISP explains 76 percent or
more (= r 2 ) of the variation in MNI.
The data in Figures 8.1 “8.4 mimic the results of the data used by Bobrowsky,
Casteel, Grayson, and Hesse; a tight statistical relationship between NISP and MNI
is apparent. Clearly, MNI would seem to always increase as NISP increases. The slope
of the line (Table 8.1 ) (which measures the rate of change in MNI relative to the rate
of change in NISP) for paleontological mammals (b = 0.5581) is not signi¬cantly
different from that for archaeological mammals (b = 0.5561), but I predicted that
quantitative paleozoology
306




figure 8.4. Relationship between NISP and MNI in thirty-¬ve archaeological assemblages
of mammal remains from North America. The number of data points is 764; not all are visible
because of duplication and overlap.


the line for the latter would be less steep due to greater fragmentation. Perhaps
even more bizarre is the fact that the slope of the line for the paleontological birds
(b = 0.483) is less steep than that for archaeological birds (b = 0.629), suggesting that
to contribute another MNI the NISP of paleontological birds must increase more
than the NISP of archaeological birds must increase.
I am thwarted in my effort to understand why the various sets of NISP“MNI
data de¬ne the relationships that they do. This is so in part because I lack data
on fragmentation intensity and on which skeletal elements were identi¬ed for each
taxon. It is also important to note that (i) the relationship between NISP and MNI
always approximates the model described in Figure 2.4, (ii) for any given assem-
blage the relationship between NISP and MNI likely will be particularistic because
it is historically contingent (how many skeletal elements are broken and contribute
more than one NISP, and how many skeletal elements of one carcass of each taxon
are identi¬ed), and (iii) differences between the relationship of the two variables
across multiple assemblages may reveal something about the distinct nature of the
¬nal thoughts 307


assemblages. Some may be more intensively fragmented, some may have been more
thoroughly identi¬ed, and so on. Most importantly in the context of this volume, we
have learned a bit about what kinds of data are required to begin to account for how
NISP and MNI are related in any given instance.
The exploratory analysis reinforces a point I have tried to make throughout the
volume. That point simply is: be explicit in your identi¬cation of a target vari-
able, and take into account how a measured variable might, or might not, re¬‚ect
the magnitude of that target variable. Thinking about the latter likely will prompt
you to record data that you might not otherwise have recorded. In the case of
Figures 8.1 “8.4, those data might well be fragmentation (NISP:MNE ratios), deter-
mination of how many skeletal elements are identi¬able in one complete skeleton,
some other variable, or some combination of these. And that, it seems to me, is a
good reason to know about quantifying paleofaunal remains.
GLOSSARY




absolute frequency A raw tally or count of entities or phenomena (see relative
frequency).
accuracy Correctness or exactness; the degree to which a measure conforms to the
true value (an estimate is less accurate than a measurement).
assemblage The entire set of faunal remains from a speci¬ed context; the context
may be arbitrarily, archaeologically, geologically, or biologically de¬ned or de¬ned
in some other way (synonym: collection).
biocoenose A living community of organisms.
closed array Quantities are given as proportions or percentages and thus must sum
to 1.0 (for proportions) or 100 percent, respectively.
community A set of organisms that live together and together form a more or less dis-
crete entity; organisms comprising a community may, or may not, be functionally
interlinked through competition or some other process (see Chapter 2).
continuous variable A variable that can take any value in a series and for which there
is yet another value intermediate between any two values.
death assemblage See thanatocoenose.
derived measurement A measurement based on multiple fundamental measure-
ments, such as a ratio of length to width.
discontinuous variable A variable for which it is possible to ¬nd two values between
which there is no intermediate value.
distal community One or more biological communities from which remains of
animals originated and which are some greater or lesser distance from the location
from which the remains were collected (after Shotwell 1955, 1958).
diversity A general term concerning any of several variables either individually or in
combination; alpha diversity, beta diversity, gamma diversity.
element See skeletal element.
glossary
310


estimate A description, perhaps a value, assigned to a phenomenon based on incom-
plete information (less accurate than a measurement).
estimation The act of making an estimate.
faunule An assemblage of associated animal remains recovered from one or sev-
eral contiguous strata and dominated by members of one biological community
(Tedford 1970:677).
¬at measurement A complex measurement that is conceptual or abstract and not
easily observed (synonym: proxy measurement).
¬delity studies Actualistic (experimental, ethnoarchaeological, neotaphonomic)
research aimed at determining how well a future fossil record re¬‚ects the quanti-
tative characteristics of a biological community in terms of any chosen biological
variable, including morphological classes, age classes, taxonomic richness, taxo-
nomic abundance, and trophic structure.
fundamental measurement A measurement that describes an easily observed prop-
erty or characteristic, such as length or width (see derived measurement and ¬at
measurement).
identi¬ed assemblage The set of faunal remains identi¬ed to taxon and studied by
the paleozoologist, typically a fraction of the taphocoenose.
interval scale Measures greater than, less than relationships, and how much (dis-
tances between any two values are known), and has an arbitrary zero.
local fauna A set of faunal remains from one locality or several closely grouped
localities that are stratigraphically equivalent or nearly so, thus the represented
taxa are close in space and time (Tedford 1970:678).
measured variable The variable that is measured (see target variable).
measurement Writing descriptions of phenomena according to rules; speci¬cally,
the act of assigning a numerical value to an observation based on some rule(s)
of assignment (see derived measurement, ¬at measurement, fundamental mea-
surement, and proxy measurement).
MNI Minimum number of individuals (see Table 2.4).
NISP Number of identi¬ed specimens.
nominal scale Measures differences in kind, not magnitude; measurements of this
scale are sometimes referred to as qualitative attributes or discontinuous variables.
ordinal scale Measures greater than, less than relationships, but not how much.
proximal community The biological community from which remains of animals
originated and which is essentially geographically coincident with the location
from which the remains were collected (after Shotwell 1955, 1958).
proxy measurement See ¬at measurement.
quantitative variable Variables measured on interval scales and ratio scales.
glossary 311


rank order Arrangement of a set of phenomena in a series from greatest to least
magnitude, or least to greatest magnitude, but in which the distance in between
any pair of phenomena is unknown.
ratio scale Measures greater than, less than relationships, and how much (the dis-
tances between any two values are known), and has a natural zero.
relative frequency A quantity or estimate that is stated in terms of another quantity
or estimate (see absolute frequency and closed array).
reliability Replicability; repeatability; measuring something twice and obtaining the
same answer.
skeletal element A complete, discrete anatomical unit or organ, such as a bone, tooth,
or shell.
skeletalpart Same as specimen but sometimes used in this book to denote a less inclu-
sive and more restricted category, such as denoting only specimens of humerus; a
synonym used in this book is skeletal portion.
specimen A bone, tooth, or shell or fragment thereof.
taphocoenose The set of remains of organisms with a geological mode of occurrence
and found spatially and geologically associated; may be a fraction of a thanato-
coenose.
taphonomy “The study of the transition (in all details) of animal remains from the
biosphere to the lithosphere” (Efremov 1940:85).
target variable The variable one is interested in and seeks to measure or estimate
(see measured variable).
thanatocoenose A set (assemblage) of dead organisms (synonym: death assemblage);
may be a fraction of a biocoenose.
validity Measurement of an attribute that re¬‚ects the concept that we wish to describe;
measuring the variable of interest rather than another variable.
variable A property or characteristic that can take on different values or magnitudes.
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