Title page for ETD etd-03072006-113951


Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author L'Abbe, Ericka N
URN etd-03072006-113951
Document Title A palaeodemographic, palaeopathologic and morphologic study of the 20th Century Venda
Degree DPhil
Department Anatomy
Supervisor
Advisor Name Title
Prof M Steyn
Keywords
  • no key words available
Date 2005-08-09
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
In 1999, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) initiated the development of the Nandoni Dam. A component of this project was the relocation of seven rural villages, which include Mulenzhe, Budeli, Dididi, Mpego, Machivandihala Agricultural College, Mutoti and Tshilangoma. Upon request from the community, DWAF had to provide for the exhumation of approximately 1,000 graves dating to the 20th century. A comprehensive analysis of the 160 skeletons (118 adults and 42 juveniles) found in association with these graves was performed, and a description of the health and disease patterns of these rural communities was provided. A secondary objective of this study was to assess the biological affinity of the Venda by examining both craniometric and odontometric traits.

A demographic profile of these communities revealed a high incidence of death in children less than 5 years of age and medium ranged adult mortality that peaked between 45 and 55 years of age. This profile is similar to other contemporary black South African communities, and has been associated with poverty, poor living conditions and poor sanitation. When compared to Iron Age populations, it was noted that a dramatic decline in child mortality and a slight increase in adult longevity has occurred in black South African populations within the past 800 years. This may be associated with a reduction in the number of children born per mother and general improvements in lifestyle and living conditions.

Medical researchers suggest that infectious disease and parasite infestation were high in rural Venda communities during the 20th century. Despite the high pathogen load in the environment, skeletal markers of non-specific diseases in this study were found to be minimal. This may be attributed to the administering of medication at both hospitals and local clinics, which would have arrested the development of diseases caused by bacteria and parasites. Overall, it appears that medicine improved health for the individual, but it was relatively ineffective on reducing the number of pathogens in the general environment.

Dental health was relatively good for these communities. Tooth decay was more common in Venda than other agricultural based populations and may be related to the increased consumption of western foods such as refined maize and sugar.

The results of uni- and multivariate statistical analyses on the craniometric and odontometric traits are indicative of a stronger relationship between the Venda and South African Negroid populations than the East Africa groups. This supports the idea of local development of the Venda people in the Soutpansberg region. These results are also in agreement with other studies that have shown similarities in cranial and dental morphology of South African Negroids with the Venda. Due to the small sample size from K2, it was not possible to establish a direct relationship between this group and the Venda. However, it is prudent to say that both groups can be classified as South African Negroids.

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