The assessment of human skeletal remains can provide valuable insight into health and lifestyle of past populations. Skeletal remains of 11 individuals were exhumed, as part of a Heritage Impact Assessment, from the Du Preezhoek cemetery located on the western banks of the Apies River, next to the Old NZASM Bridge. The excavated cemetery dates to the latter half of the 19th century and contained the remains of early Pioneers. The aim of this study was to assess them for health indicators and also to try and establish their identity taking into account existing archaeological and archival data. Standard physical anthropological techniques were used to analyse these skeletons to determine their age, sex, ancestry, health, and diet. The remains consisted of three adult females, one adolescent individual of unknown sex between the age of 12-16 years, one child between the ages of 7-8 years, and six infants ranging between birth and 3 years of age. One of the adult females presented attributes associated with a mixed ancestry. Skeletal pathology observed included subperiosteal bone growth, Schmorl nodes on the lumbar vertebrae, and osteophytic lipping of the elbow and knee joints. Dental pathology included dental caries, dental calculus and enamel hypoplasia. The demographic and pathological information gathered through the physical anthropological analyses used in combination with archival sources, provided insight into these individuals’ lifestyles and a glimpse into pioneer life in 19th century Pretoria. The demographic profile suggested that this was a typical 19th century Pioneer family, possibly related to the Du Preez family. The presence of mixed ancestry is reflective of the early interaction of various South African populations, whereas pathological markers reveal some of the hardships associated with Pioneer life. The high death rate amongst infants along with the presence of enamel hypoplasia, subperiosteal bone growth, and high caries rates in adults is suggestive of a stressful lifestyle, possibly due to malnutrition and or disease. Degenerative pathology further reveals the strenuous physical activities engaged by early Pioneers on a daily basis. Overall the Du Preezhoek remains provides a glimpse into the life of one of Pretoria’s first Pioneer families.
Poster presented at the University of Pretoria Health Sciences Faculty Day, August 2009, Pretoria, South Africa