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Journal Article

The number of distinct elements: Extending a landmark-based counting unit to other taxa


Ready,  Elspeth       
Department of Human Behavior Ecology and Culture, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Morin, E., Beauval, C., Boileau, A., Ready, E., & Laroulandie, V. (2019). The number of distinct elements: Extending a landmark-based counting unit to other taxa. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 24, 773-784. doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2019.01.007.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-C310-E
Quantification of skeletal remains in faunal assemblages is often central to the study of human behavior at archaeological sites. Recently, we introduced the Number of Distinct Elements (NDE) as a simpler, experimentally robust alternative to the Minimum Number of Elements (MNE). The MNE is a widely used counting method that has been shown to inflate the representation of rare elements and is affected by the issue of aggregation, among other problems (Morin et al., 2017, Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 24, 938–973). The NDE approach avoids both of these issues because it focuses on a specific suite of constant landmarks, which means that counts are independent of sample size. The present paper discusses how the NDE differs from MNE and zone-based recording methods and expands its use to equids, suiformes, camelids, tapirids, proboscideans, rhinocerotids and carnivores. A list of NDE landmarks is also presented for typically smaller animals, such as glires (rodents and lagomorphs), birds and turtles/tortoises.