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Keywords:

  • bioarchaeology;
  • Chloorkop cemetery;
  • commingled remains;
  • Klipfontein;
  • osteobiological profile;
  • migrant workers;
  • South Africa

ABSTRACT

In November 2008, human skeletal remains were discovered during construction works undertaken by Carlop Properties in the Chloorkop industrial area, Kempton Park, Gauteng. The Forensic Anthropology Unit of the University of Pretoria, Forensic Anthropology Research Centre (FARC) was notified, and rescue excavations of both the exposed and the undisturbed remains were undertaken. The skeletonised remains of at least 18 individuals were recovered and sent to the Department of Anatomy at the University of Pretoria for standard anthropological analysis. The identity and the time period of these human remains are unknown, and during social consultation, no relatives could be identified. Excavations revealed a formal burial pattern, which suggests a formal cemetery, probably associated with a historic institution. All individuals were buried in wooden coffins in an extended, supine position. The remains consist of both adult and juvenile remains. Some of the remains were found in a commingled state because of disturbance caused by construction work. The minimum number of individuals was determined by the visual pair matching of skeletal elements on the basis of similarities observed in bone morphology, age and sex, trauma and pathology and taphonomic alterations. Bioarchaeological techniques were used, and the following results were obtained. Of the 18 individuals, at least 15 were identified to be males, one possibly female and two juveniles. At least five of the adult male individuals presented with cut marks associated with standard autopsy procedures. No reference to the individuals' identity or to the context of the cemetery within the historical span of the Chloorkop area has been located. However, the burial pattern observed, as well as the demographic profile and pathology observed on the skeletal remains, suggests that these individuals could be linked to the Klipfontein Organic Products Factory (ca 1941s–1970s), which employed many migrant labourers, most to whom lived in compounds on the factory premises. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.