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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: June 2012

4 - Sampling, Recovery, and Sample Size


It is commonsensical to note that what is recovered – the amount recovered of each kind, and the number of kinds – will influence quantitative analyses (Cannon 1999). As we have seen in earlier chapters, sample size influences many measures and estimates of taxonomic abundances. The size of a sample of faunal remains measured as the number of specimens recovered is in turn influenced by the sampling design chosen (how much is excavated) and the recovery techniques (passing sediment through fine- or coarse-mesh sieves) used to implement that sampling design. This chapter focuses on how one generates a collection of faunal remains (sampling and recovery), properties of the resultant sample, and ways to examine the influences of sample size on selected target variables.

Paleozoologists have long worried about how methods of recovery might produce collections that are not representative of a target variable (e.g., Hibbard 1949; Kuehne 1971; McKenna 1962; Payne 1972; Thomas 1969). Exacerbating this worry is the fact that paleozoologists collect samples of faunal remains from geological contexts (Krumbein 1965; Ward 1984). This is true on at least two levels. First, paleozoologists never (or at least very seldom) collect all of the faunal remains from a deposit, paleontological location, or archaeological site. Second, the target variable usually resides in an entity other than the “identified assemblage” (Figure 2.1).