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A Reconsideration of Animal Body-Part Utility Indices

  • Duncan Metcalfe (a1) and Kevin T. Jones (a2)

The animal body-part utility indices developed by Lewis Binford have been used to interpret faunal assemblages ranging from Plio-Pleistocene sites in East Africa to a late prehistoric bison kill in the High Plains of North America. Little attention, however, has been placed on refining or further developing these scales of economic utility. We examine Binford's derivation of the modified general utility index (MGUI) and demonstrate that it is needlessly complex. A nearly identical index, the food utility index (FUI), is presented. It simply scales variation in the amount of meat, marrow, and bone grease associated with different caribou body parts. We then use the insights provided by this simple scale to explore relations among economic utility, differential body-part representation, and human decision making.

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American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0002-7316
  • EISSN: 2325-5064
  • URL: /core/journals/american-antiquity
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