Title page for ETD etd-07102007-151337

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Van der Merwe, Alie Emily
Email alieemily@hotmail.com
URN etd-07102007-151337
Document Title Human skeletal remains from Kimberley : an assessment of health in a 19th century mining community
Degree MSc (Anatomy)
Department Anatomy
Advisor Name Title
Prof G J R Maat
Prof M Steyn
  • histology
  • human skeletons
  • anthropometry
  • excavations
  • Kimberley (South Africa)
Date 2007-04-18
Availability unrestricted

In April 2003 the Sol Plaatjie Municipality disturbed several unmarked graves while digging a storm-water trench next to what is today known as the Gladstone Cemetery in Kimberley, South Africa. They are believed to date to between 1897 and 1900. All remains were excavated and housed at the McGregor museum in Kimberley where they were investigated. The purpose of this study was to analyze and interpret the health status and diseases present within this sample, and to determine whether bone lesions caused by ossified haematomas and treponemal infection can be diagnosed through histological investigations.

Standard anthropometric techniques were used to determine the age and sex of the individuals. All bones were assessed for signs of trauma and pathology present on the bones, and histological bone samples were prepared according to a method described by Maat (2002).

A total of 107 individuals were investigated, comprising of 86 males and 15 females. The remains were mostly those of young persons, with the majority being younger than 30 years of age. A wealth of pathology was observed with skeletal lesions indicating advanced treponemal disease, scurvy, non-spesfic osteomyelitis, several amputations, cranial fractures and osteoarthritis. A high incidence of dental caries, antemortem tooth loss and periodontal disease were also noted.

The remains studied were those of migrant workers, of low socio-economic status, mainly consuming a diet consisting of refined carbohydrates lacking vitamin C. A high prevalence of degenerative changes and cranial fractures suggested participation in regular strenuous physical activities and a high incidence of interpersonal violence. The high incidence of infectious diseases was ascribed to the poor living conditions as well as limited medical care. Surgical procedures were conducted regularly as could be extrapolated from the high incidence of amputations. It was also concluded that a distinction could be made between bone reactions resulting from of haemorrhage and lesions caused by an infectious condition, on histological level. Three stages of ossified haematoma development and remodeling were described. It is hoped that this study gave some recognition to those so unceremoniously dumped in these pauper graves.

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