Patterns of antemortem skeletal trauma in 20th century South African cadaveric populations: an analysis of secular trends in trauma expression.

Molopyane, Keneiloe
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
This research examines the trends and patterns of antemortem trauma from the 20th century amongst South African black and white cadaveric skeletons within the Raymond A. Dart Collection. Antemortem bone trauma analysis is indicative of a lived experience where the individual survived the traumatic event. A total of 1104 cadaveric skeletons were assessed for antemortem trauma to highlight the complex living situation within the city of Johannesburg during the 20th century. Individuals with indicators of antemortem trauma were categorised by sex, population group, biological age, and birth cohorts. Individuals within these categories were assessed through traditional trauma analysis techniques and the biocultural approach as a means to understanding the patterns and trends of trauma in the Dart Collection. As an additional analytical tool, GIS was incorporated in the study to visualise the frequencies of trauma observed on the cadaveric skeletons within the trauma collection. The skeleton was treated as a social landscape where the injuries reflected in the study were features of interest. The patterns of trauma seen within the Dart Collection were informative from a social perspective as the data provided insights into which demographic group was more prone to injury. Males within the trauma collection reflected the highest occurrence of antemortem trauma, as did the South African black population group. An intra-population analysis of trauma indicated similar patterns of trauma amongst the males and females in the South African black population group. However, the trauma patterns within the South African white population group indicated different experiences between the males and females. Three historic periods encompassing the 20th century were investigated in this study. These periods were termed; ‘the Early years’, ‘Roots of apartheid’, and ‘Popular resistance’. The purpose of this was to assess whether the occurrence of trauma increased or decreased with the progression of time. The incorporation of historical sources and the trauma data categorised according to the birth cohorts provided contextual information to explain the trend of trauma observed within the Dart Collection.
A thesis submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Johannesburg, 2021