Rethinking Methods of Faunal Analysis

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

Much progress has been made in recent years with respect to the analysis of faunal remains. Advances include improved protocols for the study of seasonality, the production of new control data on carnivore feeding behavior, as well as efforts focused on a better understanding of the process of identification and quantification of faunal specimens. However, many questions remain open or require additional research. For instance, how robust are our faunal identifications? Are NISP and MNE replicable and accurate measures of abundance? How can we explain variation in counts of cutmarks or in the identification of taphonomic agents? Do archaeozoologists produce accurate interpretations of seasonality patterns? This symposium will address these and other methodological problems that are central to the analysis of faunal remains.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-14 of 14)

  • Documents (14)

  • Assessing differential fragmentation of mammal bone: a new proxy (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Richard Redding. Andrea Poli.

    Relative bone density has been utilized as a proxy for differences in survivability among mammal bones during pre- and post-depositional fragmentation/destruction processes. Since bone remodels during an animal’s lifetime to resist directional forces and cancellous bone forms patterns of trabeculae oriented in directions to compensate for forces exerted on the bone, I think that estimates of density of a bone are an inadequate proxy for survivability. In an attempt to develop a new proxy for...

  • A Bayesian Solution to the Controversy over the Identification of Bone Surface Modification in Paleoanthropology (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Curtis Marean. Jacob Harris. Jessica Thompson. Kiona Ogle.

    Bone surface modification (BSM) remains a primary source of taphonomic inference in paleontological and archaeological contexts. However long-standing debates in BSM studies have undermined the utility of this approach. We use an objective machine-based learning algorithm rooted in Bayesian probability theory designed to quantify the level of uncertainty associated with a formal assignment of agent to individual BSM. Our multivariate Bayesian model, trained on large assemblages of...

  • Buck-ing the Trend: surprising species identifications of archaeological bone points using ZooMS in deer-dominated faunal assemblages (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Krista McGrath. Keri Rowsell. Christian Gates St-Pierre. Matthew Collins.

    Fragmented and worked bone continues to be problematic for accurate identification using traditional morphology-based analyses. In this study, we apply a number of ZooMS (Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry) techniques for the identification of bone points from two Pre-Contact Iroquoian village sites in southern Quebec, Canada. The predominance of white-tailed deer in the mammalian faunal assemblages of both sites, combined with the approximate size of the original bones, led to the initial...

  • Cautionary tales in the use of captive carnivore tooth mark data (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Katherine Woolard. Briana Pobiner.

    Evidence for hominin meat acquisition in the form of butchery marks on fossil animal bones dates back to at least 2.6 million years ago. With this new dietary behavior came competition between hominins and large carnivores for animal carcasses. Identifying which carnivores hominins were interacting with would allow various models of the timing and sequence of hominin and carnivore carcass to be evaluated. However, many studies of carnivore tooth marking and damage patterns are conducted with...

  • New on-site method to evaluate the quantity and quality of collagen in archaeological faunal assemblages using a portable FTIR and ZooMS (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Genevieve Pothier Bouchard. Michael Buckley. Jamie Hodgkins. Susan M. Mentzer. Julien Riel-Salvatore.

    Faunal remains play an important role in helping reconstruct Paleolithic hunter-gatherer subsistence and mobility strategies. However, differential bone preservation is an issue in southern European prehistoric sites, which often makes morphological identification impossible. Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS) is a new, low-cost method that will improve NISP statistical significance in a replicable way by using diagnostic peptides of the dominant collagen protein as a fingerprint of...

  • The Number of Distinct Elements (NDE): An alternative measure of faunal abundance (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Eugene Morin. Elspeth Ready. Arianne Boileau. Cédric Beauval. Marie-Pierre Coumont.

    NISP (Number of Identified SPecimens) and MNE (Minimum Number of Elements) are frequently used as measures of anatomical abundances in archaeology. Recent experimental results suggest that NISP provides estimates of skeletal abundances that are less robust than those based on MNE. However, our analysis of paired NISP-MNE data shows that MNE is prone to inflate the representation of rare parts. Moreover, MNE is known for being severely impacted by aggregation methods. These fundamental problems...

  • The promise and pitfalls of quantitative paleoenvironmental reconstruction in zooarchaeology: evaluation of late Quaternary micromammal assemblages from southern Africa (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Tyler Faith. Margaret Avery.

    Over the last several decades, Quaternary scientists have developed numerous techniques to generate quantitative paleoenvironmental reconstructions based on the taxonomic composition of fossil assemblages. The appeal of these methods is that, rather than providing reconstructions in qualitative terms (e.g., cooler versus warmer), they offer potential to generate numerical assessments. While these methods have been applied to a variety of fossil organisms, including pollen, diatoms, foraminifera,...

  • Seasonal Bison Exploitation in North American Prehistory: A Probabilistic Approach Using Fetal Prey Osteometry (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ryan Breslawski.

    Bison remains often serve as evidence for seasonal food exploitation in archaeological investigations of the Great Plains and adjacent regions. Interpreting this evidence relies on discrete rutting and calving periods that allow zooarchaeologists to link ontogenetic data to a specific time of year. However, ecological data on modern bison show that the timing of rutting and calving behavior varies between herds and even within the same herd between years. To address this problem, this study...

  • Testing the robustness of NISP and MNE: Results of a blind test (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Arianne Boileau. Elspeth Ready. Cédric Beauval. Marie-Pierre Coumont. Eugène Morin.

    Archaeozoologists generally consider that counts are replicable data accurately representing the initial abundances of elements, individuals or taxa. However, few studies have examined these assumptions with control data. To test the robustness of NISP (Number of Identified SPecimens) and MNE (Minimum Number of Element) counts, we conducted a blind test that involved the analysis of two large experimental samples composed of known red deer (Cervus elaphus) and cattle (Bos taurus) elements. The...

  • An updated GIS-based system for calculating MNE and quantifying bone surface modification frequencies and spatial location on skeletal elements in faunal assemblages (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Erich Fisher. Jamie Hodgkins. Curtis Marean.

    Zooarchaeology continues to suffer methodological problems in that analysts use methods for calculating skeletal element and surface modification abundance that vary widely, are non-transparent, and almost certainly produce data that is not comparable across analysts. In 2001, Marean, Abe, Nilssen, and Stone presented a method to overcome these problems by using a GIS-based approach to calculate minimum numbers of skeletal elements (MNE) and surface modification frequencies corrected for...

  • What big teeth they have: Rethinking mandibular tooth crowding in domestic dogs and wolves using landmark-based metric analysis (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Carly Ameen. Ardern Hulme-Beaman. Allowen Evin. Greger Larson. Keith Dobney.

    Tooth crowding is one of several criteria used for the identification of domestic animals in archaeological contexts, and is used frequently in dog domestication studies to support claims of early Palaeolithic domesticates. Studies of crowding have varied in their quantitative approaches, and can be improved by more robust statistical testing and the incorporation of more specimens with secure wild or domestic identifications. Here we present a landmark-based method for analyzing tooth crowding,...

  • What Predicts Cut Mark Frequency and Intensity? (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Gwen Bakke. Karen Lupo.

    The presence and abundance of cut marks in zooarchaeological assemblages are often used to infer carcass acquisition strategies, butchery patterns and the general availability of prey. In this paper we analyze cut mark data derived from three hunter-gatherer ethnoarchaeological assemblages (East African Hadza, Central African Bofi and Aka and Paraguayan Aché) to investigate how well carcass-size and distribution of meat predict cut mark frequencies as measured by conventional measures such as...

  • Yikes, no comparative collection! Can 3D imaging produce robust faunal identifications? (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Melanie Fillios.

    Most zooarchaeologists are familiar with the uncertain feeling when faced with identifying material in the absence of a physical comparative collection. In response to this challenge, numerous photographic atlases have been produced to provide researchers with access to collections while in the field. Unfortunately, 2D images are constrained by their inability to be ‘handled’ and measured in the same way as a physical specimen. The UNE Archaeology virtual bone project was initially developed as...

  • Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS) and rethinking a definition of NISP (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michael Buckley.

    Biomolecular methods can vastly improve the confidence in species determination of animal bone in a manner that, unlike traditional morphology-based methods, is not subject to the skills of the analyst. Until recently these have largely focussed on ancient DNA-based approaches, and so have been at costs too great to become widely used for most archaeofaunal assemblages despite being available for more than thirty years. However, within the last decade I have pioneered the development of a...