Thesis abstract ‘The Effects of Sampling on Midden Analysis: A Quantitative Approach’

03rd May 2014

Rarefaction curves calculated for the two different sample sizes.

Rarefaction curves calculated for the two different sample sizes.

Katherine Woo

BA(Hons), School of Social Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, October 2013

Sampling is a practice which affects all stages of archaeological research and is frequently employed to manage the potentially vast quantities of material recovered. Current sampling methods used in the analyses of shell middens are largely based on those developed by the California School, and can be characterised by the implementation of small sample sizes during the excavation and analysis of shell deposits. The wider sampling literature, however, has repeatedly demonstrated that the use of small sample sizes can result in the loss of substantial amounts of material, often grossly underestimating an assemblage’s richness, and skewing abundance distributions. There is thus a need to re-evaluate current sampling methods employed in the analysis of shell deposits, as they likely result in inaccurate representations of the composition of these assemblages. This thesis addresses this gap through the implementation of six ecological diversity indices to examine the effects of sampling on the recovery and interpretation of molluscan remains, using material from the Peel Island Lazaret Midden as a case study. This research demonstrates that, in line with previous sampling studies, the use of small sample sizes can drastically affect measures of richness and evenness for molluscan populations and, ultimately, interpretations of shell deposits. These methods are able to be easily applied by researchers, and offer a more robust means of determining the adequacy of sample sizes.

Woo, K.
June 2014
Type: Thesis abstract

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