Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Lyle W. Konigsberg

Committee Members

William M. Bass, Richard L. Jantz, Walter E. Klippel


This thesis concerns the use of the Lincoln/Petersen Index (LI) for quantification studies of commingled human remains. A wide variety of quantification techniques are available to the faunal analyst, but physical anthropologists tend to focus entirely on the Minimum Number of Individuals (MNI) as the only alternative for dealing with commingled human remains. As will be discussed, the LI has been effectively used in the zooarchaeological research and literature for determining the original number of individuals represented by the osteological assemblage. Prior to the completion of this thesis, no published study of commingled human remains was discovered which utilized the LI, but the results included here have proved it to be an ideal quantification technique for dealing with commingled/ossuary situations that are encountered during archaeological excavations and possibly forensic investigations. The LI calculated for human skeletal remains, while subject to some biases, is not affected by many of the criticisms that are applicable to faunal remains.

Two skeletal collections from the Larson site (39WW2), which are currently curated at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, were utilized as part of a test for the reliability of the LI. Larson Village is an Arikara site which consists of individuals who were massacred somewhere around the year A.D. 1700. Due to natural taphonomic occurrences, their remains became commingled and provided an ideal opportunity to implement the LI. Larson Cemetery is associated with the village and consists of 621 primary interments. This sample was used to create a "blind" test of pair-matching abilities to gauge the feasibility of the technique. As a final test of the potential of the LI, computer simulated data sets were created with varying percentages of recovery rates and original numbers of individuals to observe the behavior of the LI compared to the MNI.

Results from the hypothetical tests revealed that the LI is an effective estimator of the original population when greater than 20% of the complete assemblage is present and data loss is a random occurrence. This is quite different from the MNI which is shown to be totally dependent on the recovery rate. Two methods are proposed which can be used to accurately approximate the recovery rate and demonstrate the effects of taphonomic forces on quantification estimates. Furthermore, results from the Larson site skeletal sample show that with good preservation, pair-matching can be accurately performed and the quantification estimates will be reliable.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."

Included in

Anthropology Commons