Research Letters

The sex profile of skeletal remains from a cemetery of Chinese indentured labourers in South Africa

Victoria E. Gibbon, Goran Štrkalj, Maria Paximadis, Paul Ruff, Clem Penny
South African Journal of Science | Vol 106, No 7/8 | a191 | DOI: | © 2010 Victoria E. Gibbon, Goran Štrkalj, Maria Paximadis, Paul Ruff, Clem Penny | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 April 2010 | Published: 02 August 2010

About the author(s)

Victoria E. Gibbon, Purdue University, United States
Goran Štrkalj, Macquarie University, Australia
Maria Paximadis, AIDS Virus Research Unit, National Institute of Communicable Diseases, South Africa
Paul Ruff, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Clem Penny, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


For a short period of time in the early 20th century, indentured labourers from China were imported to work on the South African gold mines. The Raymond A. Dart Collection of Human Skeletons contains 36 skeletons sourced from a Chinese cemetery of this time period on the site of the old Witwatersrand Deep Gold Mine. An earlier morphometric study on this collection recorded a high number of female individuals. However, the general historical records from the early gold mining era conflict with the results of this study, stating that very few Chinese females were among those to arrive in South Africa. In this study, the sex profile of this collection was analysed using molecular sex identification through the amelogenin gene. Results were obtained for 13 (41.93%) specimens, all of which were determined to be male – data that correspond well with the historical records.


amelogenin; ancient DNA; gold mines; Chinese indentured labour; South Africa


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