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Testing the robustness of NISP and MNE: Results of a blind test

Author(s): Arianne Boileau ; Elspeth Ready ; Cédric Beauval ; Marie-Pierre Coumont ; Eugène Morin

Year: 2017

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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 two samples differ in fragmentation levels, ranging from simple marrow extraction to extensive comminution for bone grease rendering. Our results suggest that NISP and MNE are accurate and replicable measures of abundance for whole assemblages and for samples limited to non-long bones, even at the ratio scale. However, when analyses were restricted to long bones or long bone portions, both quantification methods poorly predicted abundances, including the ordinal level. Moreover, the blind test indicates that MNE is more robust at predicting skeletal abundances than NISP. The poorer performance of NISP in the blind test probably results from substantial variations in rates of long bone fragmentation and identification.

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Testing the robustness of NISP and MNE: Results of a blind test. Arianne Boileau, Elspeth Ready, Cédric Beauval, Marie-Pierre Coumont, Eugène Morin. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430367)


Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15011

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America