Composition of the Kirsten skeletal collection at Stellenbosch University

Alblas, Amanda ; Greyling, Linda M. ; Geldenhuys, Elsje-Marie (2018)

CITATION: Alblas, A., Greyling, L. M. & Geldenhuys, E. M. 2018. Composition of the Kirsten Skeletal Collection at Stellenbosch University. South African Journal of Science, 114(1/2), Art. #2017-0198, doi:10.17159/sajs.2018/20170198.

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The Kirsten Skeletal Collection is curated in the Division of Anatomy and Histology, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, South Africa. It comprises the largest documented cadaver-derived South African coloured skeletal collection in the world. Our aim in this paper is to present an inventory and characterise the identified skeletons in the Kirsten Skeletal Collection as well as provide a descriptive indication of what researchers can expect to encounter at the anthropology unit at Stellenbosch University. The skeletal material was derived mainly from the cadaver donation programme of the Division of Anatomy and Histology over a 58-year period (1957–2015). All pertinent information for each individual skeleton is entered into a database and a full skeletal inventory is established. The skeletal database registry was analysed to demonstrate the distribution of age, sex and population affinity of individuals in the collection. Currently, this collection consists of 1161 skeletons with known records. Despite differences in the age and sex composition, the skeletal profile in general reflects mainly the profile of the Western Cape population. Most individuals were born between 1920 and 1950, placing the Kirsten Skeletal Collection in the early to mid-20th century. The age at death for the greatest proportion (41.8%) of individuals was between 40 and 60 years. Current biological profile techniques in age, ancestry and sex estimation can be improved and, among others, new regional and ancestral specific standards for the biologically unique and diverse South African coloured population can be developed.

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