Aspects of life and ancestry of four women from the Iron Age of KwaZulu-Natal
Dr Gavin Whitelaw
Thu, 18/07/2019 - 19:30
The Auditorium, Roedean School, 35 Princess of Wales Terrace, Parktown, Johannesburg
Date: Thursday, 18 July 2019 Time: 19:30
Venue: The auditorium, Roedean School, 35 Princess of Wales Terrace, Parktown, Johannesburg
Charge: Non-members: R30, members: free

Dating and genetic analysis of four partial human skeletons from KwaZulu-Natal indicate that they derived from agriculturist communities of the mid-second millennium AD. Morphological and genetic analysis shows that three individuals were female; identification of the fourth as female comes from genetic analysis only. All four were adults at death, three older adults and one younger. Two had borne at least one child. Genetically, all four individuals cluster strongly with Bantu-speaking populations with West African roots, a result supported by craniometric data for the one individual with a complete cranium. All nevertheless displayed some admixture from Khoe-San populations. Three of the women, and probably the fourth, carried genetic resistance to the Plasmodium vivax malaria parasite, while two had some protection against Trypanosoma brucei gambienseinduced sleeping sickness. The unusual rock-shelter burial locations of three of the women suggest that their deaths required ritual ‘cooling’. Lightning and violence are possible causes. This multipronged approach is necessary for the development of complex understandings of the past and of the individuals who lived in the region centuries ago. Dr Gavin Whitelaw has been an integral part of the KZN Museum team for more than 20 years now. He is particularly interested in Iron Age Archaeology and has also been instrumental in the production of the Museum's human science journal, South African Humanities. Many South Africans will remember seeing Dr Whitelaw on the SABC television series called Shoreline which covered natural and human science aspects of South Africa's coastal areas. He is also the chairperson of the SA Archaeological Society's KZN Branch.