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A bioarchaeological analysis of historical human skeletal remains recovered from Lancaster Mine, Witwatersrand, South Africa

De Bruyn, C and Meyer, A (2018) A bioarchaeological analysis of historical human skeletal remains recovered from Lancaster Mine, Witwatersrand, South Africa. The South African Archaeological Bulletin, 73 (207). pp. 4-12. ISSN 00381969

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In 1996, during ground-laying work for the construction of Main Reef Road in Krugersdorp, South Africa, human skeletal remains were inadvertently uncovered. The identities of the people interred in these graves were unknown. Since these individuals have never been identified and the context of the cemetery never confirmed, this study attempts to identify the remains within their historical context by using techniques derived from bioarchaeology. Archaeological and archival information suggests that these individuals were buried in a pauper’s cemetery on the premises of the Lancaster Gold Mining Company, and that they were most probably interred somewhere between 1895 and 1914. Individual osteobiological profiles and possible indicators of trauma and pathology are identified. Results suggest a MNI of 19 individuals, representative of African men and women of mostly young adult and adolescent ages. Infectious disease and non-specific signs of disease indicate the general poor health and harsh living and working conditions often associated with migrant labour. Based on the bioarchaeological findings, the Lancaster sample represents early migrant workers who moved to the Witwatersrand area prior to the implementation of the closed-compound system. These people probably worked on gold mines as unskilled mine labourers or in the low-income sector in the nearby towns, lived in informal settlements, and died as paupers. Even though these people remain unnamed, their remains enable us to reconstruct some aspects of their lives, in some sense giving a voice to a small group of people representative of the millions of migrant workers who shaped South Africa’s industrial economy.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: South African mining; Migrant labour; Paupers' cemetey; Compound system; Krugersdorp
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Pharmacy & Biomolecular Sciences
Publisher: South African Archaeological Society
Related URLs:
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 02 Apr 2024 14:33
Last Modified: 02 Apr 2024 14:33
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/22939
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