A palaeopathological assessment of the late 19th and early 20th century Khoesan

01 Mar 2017

Since the arrival of Dutch colonists in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, Khoesan populations were subjectedto severe political and economic marginalisation and often fell prey to racial conflict. These circumstancespersisted until the early 20th century, during which an astonishing number of Khoesan skeletons weretransported from South Africa to various locations in Europe, as at the time, different institutions competed toobtain these remains. The purpose of this study was to assess the health status of the late 19th and early 20thcentury Khoesan. Skeletal remains housed in two different European institutions were studied. The samplecomprised 140 specimens from the Rudolf Pöch Skeletal Collection in Vienna, Austria, and 15 specimens fromthe Musée de l’Homme in Paris, France. These individuals represent both sexes and were aged betweennewborn and 75 years, with 54 being younger than 20 years of age. Results indicated high levels of typicaldisease conditions associated with groups under stress, such as periostitis, cribra orbitalia and porotichyperostosis. Treponemal disease, rickets, osteoarthritis and trauma were also encountered amongst other morespecific indicators of health and disease. This study provided additional knowledge on the health status and livesof the Khoesan people during this turbulent period and created new awareness regarding a group of severelymistreated individuals