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NISP vs. MNI in Quantification of Body-Part Representation

Fiona Marshall and Tom Pilgram
American Antiquity
Vol. 58, No. 2 (Apr., 1993), pp. 261-269
DOI: 10.2307/281968
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/281968
Page Count: 9
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Abstract

In an effort to understand the relative advantages and drawbacks of the minimum number of individuals (MNI) and number of identifiable specimens (NISP) for quantifying body-part representation in faunas from archaeological sites, we analyzed relations among NISP, MNI, fragmentation, and bulk density in the fauna from Ngamuriak, a Kenyan pastoral Neolithic site. Our findings suggest that MNI is at least as sensitive as NISP to effects of fragmentation. While MNI decreases with increasing fragmentation, NISP moves in two directions with fragmentation, increasing at low levels of fragmentation and decreasing at high levels of fragmentation. In addition, MNI appears more sensitive than NISP to the relative identifiability of different body parts. We believe MNI may be a less representative descriptor of relative element frequency than NISP in highly fragmented assemblages.

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