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Quantitative Units and Terminology in Zooarchaeology

  • R. Lee Lyman (a1)

Fifteen years ago Casteel and Grayson (1977) identified potential ambiguity in the definitions of quantitative terms and units used by zooarchaeologists. As solutions they suggested that analysts use the original definitions of terms and explicitly specify how units are counted. The history of zooarchaeology since then has involved a shift from producing estimates of taxonomic abundances to measuring various taphonomic processes and effects within taxa. As a result, many new quantitative units and terms for those units have been proposed. Some of these new units and terms have been used to measure properties of bone assemblages that are not clearly related to a taphonomic process or effect. Other units and terms have been used inappropriately due to apparent misunderstanding of the property measured by a unit or due to some assumed, implicit meaning of a term. The 112 terms compiled for this study have 122 distinct definitions. Some of the designated quantitative units are synonymous with one another while other units are used in ambiguous manners that seriously compromise their reliability. Explicit definitions of quantitative units and terms along with detailed descriptions of how individual units are measured are mandatory to the efficient communication of research results and the continued prosperity of zooarchaeological research.


Hace quince años Casteel y Grayson (1977) identificaron la potencial ambigüedad en las definiciones de los términos cuantitativos y las unidades utilizados por zooarqueólogos. Ellos sugirieron como solución que los analistas utilizaran las definiciones originates de los términos y especificaran explicitamente la manera de contar las unidades. Desde aquel entonces la historia de zooarqueología ha cambiado de manera que ya no se producen las estimaciones de la abundancia taxonómica sino que se miden varios procesos tafonómicos y sus efectos dentro de los taxa. Como resultado, se han propuesto muchas unidades cuantitativos nuevas además de los términos para ellas. Algunos de estos términos y unidades nuevas se han utilizado para medir las propiedades de las colecciones de huesos que no están claramente relacionadas con algún proceso o efecto tafonómico. Se han utilizado inapropiadamente otras unidades y términos debido a la aparente mala interpretación de la propiedad medida por la unidad o debido a algún supuesto, implícito significado del término. Los 112 términos compilados para este estudio tienen 122 distintas definiciones. Algunas de las unidades cuantitativas indicadas tienen significados sinónimos, mientras que se utilizan otras unidades de manera tan ambigua que se compromete su veracidad. Las definiciones explícitas de las unidades cuantitativas y sus términos junto con las descripciones detalladas de cómo se miden las unidades individuales son obligatorias para la eficaz comunicación de los resultados de la investigación y la contínua prosperidad de las investigaciones zooarqueológicas.

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American Antiquity
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  • EISSN: 2325-5064
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