The Number of Distinct Elements (NDE): An alternative measure of faunal abundance


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 considerably limit the value of MNE as a measure of abundance. This paper introduces an alternative counting method called the Number of Distinct Elements (NDE). This new metric focuses on the occurrence of pre-determined, invariant landmarks tallied on mutually exclusive specimens. Preliminary experimental results suggest that NDE counts are robust predictors of faunal abundances. Moreover, the NDE approach eliminates the long and tedious task of spreading and drawing specimens to identify fragment overlap. Furthermore, NDE values are additive and easily calculated. For these reasons, the NDE approach constitutes a compelling alternative to MNE in the analysis of faunal patterns.

Cite this Record

The Number of Distinct Elements (NDE): An alternative measure of faunal abundance. Eugene Morin, Elspeth Ready, Arianne Boileau, Cédric Beauval, Marie-Pierre Coumont. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430365)

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14632