Research

 

The University of Pretoria (UP) is a research intensive institution in Africa, recognised internationally for its quality, relevance and impact, and also for developing people, creating knowledge and making a difference locally and globally. Established in 2008, the Forensic Anthropology Research Centre (FARC) at UP promotes research on human skeletal variation and educates postgraduate students; law enforcement; and the private sector. Research in FARC focuses on methods used to establish a biological profile and bone trauma. BSc Honours to PhD degrees are offered in the Department of Anatomy within the forensic anthropology discipline. We have staff and structural infrastructure for postdoctoral researchers.

Each year in Gauteng, approximately 1200 bodies are incinerated without a known identity, many of whom may be illegal immigrants and/or migrant labourers from other provinces in the country. Additionally, many of the poor in South Africa do not have dental/hospital records or identification documents. With research into human variation of South Africans and African groups, FARC researchers are directly improving the education and application of the discipline of forensic anthropology in South Africa. Our research into sexual dimorphism, juvenile age estimation, and ancestry is directly applicable to establishing a more accurate presumptive identification of an unknown person. While a substantial amount of our research is based on large skeletal collections in South Africa, we are also utilizing various imaging modalities, such as CT scans, Lodox images, and radiographs, in our collaborative research on age and sex estimation in juveniles, ancestry and sexual dimorphism among Indian South Africans, and evaluating methods used in facial reconstruction. Data from these various imaging modalities allows us to increase our osteometric databases and to improve our understanding of human variation in South Africa and abroad. As a research team in South Africa, we are using our databases and research collections to connect with the international community so as to bring the discipline of forensic anthropology on par with international standards regarding technological and statistical advances; international student exchange; workshops and social media. 

The University of Pretoria (UP) is a research intensive institution in Africa, recognised internationally for its quality, relevance and impact, and also for developing people, creating knowledge and making a difference locally and globally. Established in 2008, the Forensic Anthropology Research Centre (FARC) at UP promotes research on human skeletal variation and educates postgraduate students; law enforcement; and the private sector. Research in FARC focuses on methods used to establish a biological profile and bone trauma. BSc Honours to PhD degrees are offered in the Department of Anatomy within the forensic anthropology discipline. We have staff and structural infrastructure for postdoctoral researchers.

Each year in Gauteng, approximately 1200 bodies are incinerated without a known identity, many of whom may be illegal immigrants and/or migrant labourers from other provinces in the country. Additionally, many of the poor in South Africa do not have dental/hospital records or identification documents. With research into human variation of South Africans and African groups, FARC researchers are directly improving the education and application of the discipline of forensic anthropology in South Africa. Our research into sexual dimorphism, juvenile age estimation, and ancestry is directly applicable to establishing a more accurate presumptive identification of an unknown person. While a substantial amount of our research is based on large skeletal collections in South Africa, we are also utilizing various imaging modalities, such as CT scans, Lodox images, and radiographs, in our collaborative research on age and sex estimation in juveniles, ancestry and sexual dimorphism among Indian South Africans, and evaluating methods used in facial reconstruction. Data from these various imaging modalities allows us to increase our osteometric databases and to improve our understanding of human variation in South Africa and abroad. As a research team in South Africa, we are using our databases and research collections to connect with the international community so as to bring the discipline of forensic anthropology on par with international standards regarding technological and statistical advances; international student exchange; workshops and social media. 

Poverty as well as a lack of access to education and health care are the ugliest manifestations of social abuse in South Africa. The internalization of South African Universities through collaborative work in teaching and research, will contribute in improving education levels and health care, which in turn will assist in uplifting people and alleviating poverty in the country. The main aims of this project are to: develop a comprehensive digital imaging bone collection database on South Africans,  develop quality assurance guidelines via SOPs for the access and ethical use of the digital images in this database, and to use this database to establish strategic relationships with international partners  to stimulate the international dissemination of unique South African originated knowledge.

In 2011, through a National Research Fundoundation (NRF) initiative, a micro-focus X-ray tomography (micro-XCT) facility  was installed at the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) and is one of three of this kind of instruments available for general research in South Africa. Micro-XCT allows high-precision 2D radiography and 3D tomography renderings investigating samples in a non-destructive fashion that lead to the development of high-level research expertise. In the past six years, more than 50% research applications from researchers and post graduate students at the Necsa micro-XCT facility were dedicated Bioscience investigations relating to bones originating from the bone collection located at the University of Pretoria. From 2011,  a large volume of 3-dimensional scientific data on human bones, especially on skulls, which attract researchers and post graduate students from the anatomical sciences, bio-engineering and dentistry, could benefit from the 3D data collection which indicated to be  a unique national asset in South Africa. 

 

Published by Clarisa van der Merwe

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