Coverage-Based Rarefaction in Zooarchaeology: Potential and Pitfalls

Author(s): Tyler Faith; Andrew Du

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Defining and Measuring Diversity in Archaeology" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Zooarchaeologists routinely measure the taxonomic richness of faunal assemblages in order to explore questions related to human subsistence behavior or paleoenvironmental change. A common solution to the well-known sampling issues that attend such analysis is rarefaction, whereby sample size is standardized by rarefying larger assemblages down to a sample size equivalent to that of the smallest assemblage under consideration. A drawback of this approach is that the difference in rarefied richness between any two assemblages varies as a function of the sample size that is used, obscuring ecologically or behaviorally meaningful signals. As demonstrated in the ecological and paleobiological literature, this can be overcome by rarefying assemblages down to an equivalent coverage (a measure of sample completeness) rather than to equivalent sample size. In this presentation, we explore the potential and pitfalls of coverage-based rarefaction (CBR) in zooarchaeology. A key challenge in the implementation of CBR in zooarchaeology is that the units used to quantify taxonomic abundances (NISP versus MNI) can have a considerable influence on the outcome, particularly in poorly sampled assemblages. We explore why this is so, and suggest protocol for implementing CBR in zooarchaeology.

Cite this Record

Coverage-Based Rarefaction in Zooarchaeology: Potential and Pitfalls. Tyler Faith, Andrew Du. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450516)

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22791