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Quarter-Inch Screening: Understanding Biases in Recovery of Vertebrate Faunal Remains

  • Brian S. Shaffer (a1)

Fine screening of archaeological materials is often too expensive or too time-consuming for large assemblages. Consequently, 1/4" has become a standard size of mesh used among North American archaeologists. Unfortunately, the effects of 1/4" screening on bone recovery and the biases in interpretations are poorly documented. One-quarter-inch screening biases faunal recovery towards "larger" bone specimens, but previous studies fail to document biases in the recovery of specific taxa or elements. To better understand these biases, screening tests were conducted on 26 modern, comparative specimens. Results of these tests indicate that recovery and loss of specific elements for each taxon can be predicted. Mammals with live weights of less than 140 g are almost completely lost by 1/4" screening. Specimens weighing from 71 to 340 g are poorly represented, while specimens weighing from 340 to 3,100 g are represented by most elements except foot bones. Taxa greater than 4,500 g are represented by most elements.


El tamizadofino de materiales arqueológicos es a menudo excesivamente costoso o consume demasiado tiempo en el caso de grandes conjuntos. Como resultado, el uso de zarandas de 1/4" se ha convertido en práctica corriente entre arqueólogos norteamericanos. Desgraciadamente, los efectos del tamizado con zarandas de 1/4" sobre la recuperación de huesos y los resultantes sesgos en la interpretación han sido escasamente documentados. A pesar de que el uso de este procedimiento distorsiona la recuperación de fauna en favor de huesos de mayor tamaño, previos estudios no documentan sesgos en la recuperación de taxones o elementos específicos. Con el próposito de comprender mejor estos sesgos, se realizaron pruebas de tamizado con 26 especímenes modernos comparativos. Los resultados de estas pruebas indican que es posible predecir la recuperación y pérdida de elementos especificos para coda taxón. Mamíferos con peso en vida menor que 140 g se pierden casi por completo al tamizar con 1/4". Especímenes que pesan entre 71 y 340 g se encuentran pobremente representados, en tanto que aquellos con peso entre 340 y 3.100 g están representados por la mayoria de los elementos, excepto los huesos del pie. Casi todos los elementos se encuentran presentes en taxones mayores que 4.500 g.

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American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0002-7316
  • EISSN: 2325-5064
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