From Midden to Sieve: The Impact of Differential Recovery and Quantification Techniques on Interpretations of Shellfish Remains in Australian Coastal Archaeology

01st December 2007

Robyn A. Jenkins

BA(Hons), School of Social Science, University of Queensland, November 2006

Experimental mechanical sieving methods are applied to samples of shellfish remains from three sites in southeast Queensland, Seven Mile Creek Mound, Sandstone Point and One-Tree, to test the efficacy of various recovery and quantification procedures commonly applied to shellfish assemblages in Australia. There has been considerable debate regarding the most appropriate sieve sizes and quantification methods that should be applied in the recovery of vertebrate faunal remains. Few studies, however, have addressed the impact of recovery and quantification methods on the interpretation of invertebrates, specifically shellfish remains.

In this study, five shellfish taxa representing four bivalves (Anadara trapezia, Trichomya hirsutus, Saccostrea glomerata, D. deltoides) and one gastropod (Pyrazus ebeninus) common in eastern Australian midden assemblages are sieved through 10mm, 6.3mm and 3.15mm mesh. Results are quantified using MNI, NISP and weight. Analyses indicate that different structural properties and pre- and post-depositional factors affect recovery rates. Fragile taxa (T. hirsutus) or those with foliated structure (S. glomerata) tend to be overrepresented by NISP measures in smaller sieve fractions, while more robust taxa (A. trapezia and P. ebeninus) tend to be over-represented by weight measures. Results demonstrate that for all quantification methods tested a 3mm sieve should be used on all sites to allow for regional comparability and to effectively collect all available information about the shellfish remains.

Robyn A. Jenkins
From Midden to Sieve: The Impact of Differential Recovery and Quantification Techniques on Interpretations of Shellfish Remains in Australian Coastal Archaeology
December 2007
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Thesis Abstracts
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