Zooarchaeology’s Basic Counting Units

  • Diane Gifford-Gonzalez


This chapter is the first of two chapters on methods for counting archaeofaunal specimens. It introduces NSP, the number of specimens, identifiable or not, and NISP, the number of taxonomically identifiable specimens in a sample, MNE (minimum number of elements), MNI (minimum number of individuals), and MAU (minimum animal units), the last three counts all being derived from NISP. It introduces the advantages and limitations in their application, which will be discussed in greater detail in Chap. 18. Since counting and comparison are inevitable in zooarchaeology, and since no one of these measures is perfectly suitable for all situations, researchers must give thought to which will most reliably accomplish their research goals. This chapter stresses that these measure should be assessed and applied according to the nature of the site(s), state of the archaeofauna materials, and research questions, providing some examples.


Quantification NISP NSP MNI MNE MAU 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diane Gifford-Gonzalez
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA

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