A refined protocol for calculating MNI in archaeological molluscan shell assemblages: a Marshall Islands case study

Harris, Matthew, Weisler, Marshall and Faulkner, Patrick (2015) A refined protocol for calculating MNI in archaeological molluscan shell assemblages: a Marshall Islands case study. Journal of Archaeological Science, 57 168-179. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2015.01.017

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Author Harris, Matthew
Weisler, Marshall
Faulkner, Patrick
Title A refined protocol for calculating MNI in archaeological molluscan shell assemblages: a Marshall Islands case study
Journal name Journal of Archaeological Science   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0305-4403
Publication date 2015-05
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.jas.2015.01.017
Open Access Status
Volume 57
Start page 168
End page 179
Total pages 12
Place of publication Camden, London, United Kingdom
Publisher Academic Press
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Formatted abstract
• Molluscan MNI values are routinely calculated using a restricted range of Non-Repetitive Elements (NREs).
• A new protocol is described that expands the range of NREs for MNI calculation.
• The new protocol for calculating MNI increased abundance of gastropods by 167%.
• Richness and evenness measures, as well as rank order were markedly influenced by quantification protocol.

Comprehensive and transparent protocols for calculating Minimum Number of Individuals (MNI) for archaeological faunal assemblages are critical to data quality, comparability, and replicability. MNI values for archaeological molluscan assemblages are routinely calculated by counting a select range of Non-Repetitive Elements (NREs). Most commonly, only the frequency of the spire of gastropods and the umbo or hinge of bivalves are recorded. Calculating MNI based only on the frequency of these NREs can underestimate the relative abundance of particular molluscan shell forms. Using archaeological mollusc assemblages from two sites in the Marshall Islands as a case study, we outline a new protocol (tMNI) that incorporates a wider range of NRE and calculates MNI based on the most frequently occurring NRE for each taxon. The principles that underlie the tMNI method can be modified to be regionally or assemblage specific, rather than being a universally applicable range of NRE for the calculation of MNI. For the Marshall Islands assemblages, the inclusion of additional NRE in quantification measures led to (1) a 167% increase in relative abundance of gastropods and 3% increase in bivalves (2) changes to rank order abundance, and (3) alterations to measures of taxonomic richness and evenness. Given these results for the Marshall Islands assemblages, tMNI provides more accurate taxonomic abundance measures for these and other archaeological molluscan assemblages with similar taxa. These results have implications for the quality of zooarchaeological data increasingly utilised by conservation biologists, historical ecologists and policy makers.
Keyword Mollusc quantification
Minimum numbers of individuals
Shell middens
Marshall Islands
Analytical transparency
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Social Science Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 2 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 3 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Mon, 09 Mar 2015, 12:57:42 EST by Professor Marshall Weisler on behalf of School of Social Science