Data Quality in Zooarchaeological Faunal Identification
Published online: 16 October 2012
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012
Abstract There is no standard for reporting faunal identifications in zooarchaeology.
Zooarchaeologists are open to accusations that reported conclusions are invalid.
Other sciences counter such problems through use of quality assurance, consisting
of quality control (QC), and assessment (QA). QC is a standard for procedures
adopted during laboratory practice. A rarely cited standard was published by Driver
in 1992. QA focuses on criteria for faunal identification and is becoming more
common in zooarchaeology. QC and QA must be integral parts of zooarchaeology
if identifications are to be accepted. The stakes are high because paleobiological
datasets are now used to study problems in conservation science.
In zooarchaeology, validity or lack thereof potentially besets the most basic research
process, namely bone, tooth, and shell identification. In a critical examination of
faunal analysis method and reporting, Gobalet (2001, p. 377) states that “the reader
[of most zooarchaeological studies] has no basis for knowing who made the identi-
fications or the criteria for the identifications.” Thus, he notes that most faunal
identifications “must be taken on faith” (see Butler and Lyman 1996). Researchers
in other scientific fields strengthen claims based on laboratory research through use of
systematized procedures. There are no broadly accepted discipline-wide standards for
zooarchaeological lab work. Zooarchaeologists must overcome this flaw in the faunal
identification approach if we are to overcome “serious concerns about the accuracy of
identifications because of the lack of replicability” (Gobalet 2001, p. 378).
J Archaeol Method Theory (2013) 20:381–396
S. Wolverton (*)
Department of Geography and Institute of Applied Science, University of North Texas, Denton,
TX 76203, USA