The history and composition of the Raymond A. Dart collection of human skeletons at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Manisha R. Dayal, Anthony D T Kegley, Goran Štrkalj, Mubarak A. Bidmos, Kevin L. Kuykendall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

99 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Raymond A. Dart Collection of Human Skeletons (Dart Collection) is housed in the School of Anatomical Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, and comprises one of the largest documented cadaver-derived human skeletal assemblages in the world. This collection originated in the early 1920s as a result of the efforts of Raymond Dart and continues to grow. The skeletons included represent varied indigenous and immigrant populations from southern Africa, Europe and Asia. This contribution documents the history of the collection and provides an updated inventory and demographic assessment of this valuable research collection. According to a recent inventory the Dart Collection currently comprises 2,605 skeletons representing individuals from regional SA African (76%), White (15%), Coloured (4%) and Indian (0.3%) populations. A large proportion of the skeletons (71%) represent males. The recorded ages at death range from the first year to over 100 years of age, but the majority of individuals died between the ages of 20 and 70. The Dart Collection has been affected by collection procedures based on availability. All of the cadavers collected before 1958, and large proportions subsequently, were derived from unclaimed bodies in regional South African hospitals. Some details of documentation (age at death, population group) are estimates and some aspects of the collection demographics (sex ratios) do not closely reflect any living South African population. Our inventory and analysis of the Dart Collection is aimed to assist researchers planning research on the materials from this collection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)324-335
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Volume140
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009

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