zak masters student

Zák Davidson

Degree registered for: 

MSc (Medicine) Biological Anthropology


A/Prof Jacqui Friedling, PhD


Dept of Human Biology,

CABA Division


Susan Chandler, PhD

UWC Faculty of Dentistry

Dept of Oral Biology, Pathology, and Radiology,

Dissertation title: 

Effects of dental treatment on forensic sex estimation from dentition in a modern population of the Western Cape of South Africa


The biological profile is developed as a summary statistical estimation based on metric and morphological variations of whatever remains are recovered from the site of discovery (Spradley, 2016). The constituent parts of the biological profile are: biological sex, age-at-death, stature, ancestry, idiosyncratic trauma and morphology, and osteopathological processes (Austin and King, 2016). In the context of the Western Cape, work on nonmetric traits has been well represented in recent literature (Irish 2013; 2015), but there has been a dearth of recent metric analysis for this region. Exploration of metric variation is warranted to provide a usable index of dental sexual dimorphism.

Because of their longevity, resistance to taphonomic changes, and the likelihood of being found; teeth are perhaps one of the most useful parts of the skeletal anatomy to study (Alt et al., 2012).A quantitative comparison is a key feature of odontometrics, the measuring and comparison of tooth size from both a macro and micro social level of observation. Radiographic and odontometric analysis can be used to determine whether or not dental restorations affect the forensic estimation of sex.

Restorative, also known as operative, dentistry is the removal of infected or defective tissues from the teeth (Cheng et al., 2022). The degree of difference of the restoration and the original tooth structure introduces an uncontrollable variable, which is normally negated by excluding the tooth. This unknown confounds the use of any number of teeth, as restorations are possible on any tooth, for this reason, a full odontometric assessment must be performed. It is important to establish as much empirical information as possible and the unnecessary exclusion of restored teeth prime facie harms the correct estimation of the biological profile. This study seeks to study the sex-specific variations in quantitative robusticity of teeth, with a goal of establishing a reference index for the study population. 


Reagobaka Lichaba

Reagobaka Lichaba

Degree: MSc Applied Anatomy

Title: A morphometric study of the brain ventricles of patients diagnosed with Chronic Hydrocephalus at Groote Schuur Hospital.

Registered in: Depart of Human Biology

Supervisor: A/Prof Delva Shamley

Co-supervisors: Dr Kentse Mpolokeng (CABA) and Dr Sally Rothemeyer (Neurosurgery)

Thesis description

Chronic hydrocephalus is a multifactorial, cerebrospinal fluid accumulation disease that eventually leads to ventricular expansion. When left untreated, chronic hydrocephalus can have detrimental effects on cerebral structures and cause various neurological symptoms, diseases such as strokes, or result in death. However, when treated early, a cerebrospinal fluid shunt or the endoscopic third ventriculostomy procedure may improve symptoms. Therefore, correct, and early diagnosis is essential.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans are used during patient examination to assist in the diagnosis of chronic hydrocephalus, where specific cerebral and ventricular radiological features are assessed. This has led to the development of chronic hydrocephalus criteria utilising these radiological features. However, to confirm chronic hydrocephalus, invasive methods such as measuring intracranial pressure (ICP) are currently being used. Measuring ICP puts the brain at risk of infection or haemorrhage, thus, having less invasive methods would be helpful.

Therefore, this study aims to further understand and describe the morphological patterns of ventricular and cerebral radiological features observed on MRI scans. These MRI scans belong to infant and adult patients previously diagnosed with chronic hydrocephalus at Groote Schuur Hospital. Furthermore, to explore the possibility of developing a non-invasive diagnostic tool.



Siwaphiwe Mfengu

Degree: MSc (Med) Biological Anthropology

Title: Comparative Analysis of Physiological Stress Markers on Pre and Post 2000 BP Southern African Hunter-Gatherer/Herders

Supervisors: Prof. Victoria Gibbon & Dr. Calvin Mole

masters student phiwe

Thesis description: Humans have always had complex interactions with their environments and other human beings throughout history, and the scope of this study is on the effects of the introduction of a new population to an existing population with completely different lifestyles and subsistence strategies. Human social organisation can either prevent or worsen the impacts of illness (Pfeiffer, 2022) and stress. Every human community has unique ecological conditions and social structures that influence the patterns of illness they encounter (Pfeiffer, 2022). Day to day biophysical, socioeconomic, and political factors change biological homeostasis and put strain on people individually and as a group (Gibbon & Davies, 2020). By comparing the skeletal remains from before and after the significant changes in the sociopolitical environment of southern Africa around 2000 BP, one can investigate the potential effects of these changes on the biological health and stress levels of these individuals (Gibbon & Davies, 2020). Thus, the aim of this study is to do a comparative analysis on skeletal remains of hunter-gatherer/herder from pre and post 2000 BP to examine the prevalence of physiological stress markers between the two populations, which may help us discern the impact of the migration of Bantu-speaking people on the livelihoods and health of the southern African hunter-gatherer/herders.


Matlhogonolo Mutle

matlhogonolo mutle


Degree: MSc in Biological Anthropology

Project title: A retrospective comparative study on bone trauma observed in suspected gender-based violence cases received at Salt River Mortuary

Supervisors: Associate Professor Jacqui Friedling and Dr Itumeleng Molefe









Boitumelo Molale

boitumelo graduation picture

     Degree: MSc Biological Anthropology 

Project title: Gender-based violence in decedents: a radiologic imaging examination of postcranial trauma 

Supervisors: A/Prof Jacqui Friedling and Dr Itumeleng Molefe


Sandile Ntuli

Mr Sandile Ntuli
Degree: MSc (Med) Anatomy
Thesis title: A morphological and histological analysis of vascular conduit options for coronary artery bypass grafting
Supervisor: Ms Jeshika Luckrajh Co-supervisor: Dr Geney Gunston 

Thesis Description: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide and coronary artery disease (CAD), largely attributed to occluded coronary arteries, is the most common cardiovascular disease. In such cases where the coronary arteries are occluded by plaques and fatty deposits on the walls of the blood vessels (known as atherosclerosis), the myocardium becomes oxygen deprived and symptoms such as angina manifest. Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is considered the gold standard invasive intervention to treat CAD. This procedure involves grafting a blood vessel from elsewhere in the body to the affected coronary artery to bypass the site of occlusion. This vascular conduit may be obtained from various sites. CABG is one of the most effective and lasting therapies for CAD; however, an important decision for the surgeon to make is which vessel to use as a conduit. The choice of conduit is generally based on the surgeon’s preference, hospital protocols, patient history and importantly, the morphological compatibility of the conduit and the coronary artery. For the CABG to be durable, patent, and well-functioning, the morphological characteristics such as the length, luminal diameter and wall thickness of the conduit need to be in line with that of the coronary artery. 

Aim: The study will determine which conduit is the most morphologically similar to the coronary arteries. This will be done by determining the length, luminal diameter, and wall thickness of commonly used conduits (ie. internal thoracic artery, saphenous vein, radial artery, right gastroepiploic artery) and comparing these parameters to those of the coronary arteries. This analysis will be of value to surgeons in determining which conduit would be most suitable from a morphological viewpoint.
Contact details: Email



Kirstin Lore Snyckers
Degree: MSc (Med) Biological Anthropology

kirsten graduation picture

Thesis title: Identifying and documenting the effects of forensically important scavengers in Cape Town, Western Cape – the Cape grey mongoose.
Supervisors: Prof Victoria Gibbon and Dr Devin Finaughty
Contact E-mail
Thesis description: In forensic investigations, contextual information is a critical component of any inquiry. This includes the location, environment and circumstances surrounding the discovery of the deceased, as well as any physical and biological evidence. Various environmental factors affect the natural decomposition process and access to regional and local data on post-mortem interval (PMI) estimation and decomposition data is essential for enhancing forensic case resolution. This project will examine the influence of vertebrate scavenging on the decomposition process in the Western Cape and its subsequent influence on PMI estimations. In the Western Cape, the most common vertebrate scavenger is the Cape grey mongoose, Galerella pulverulenta, known to be opportunistic feeders, with a diet consisting of mainly invertebrates and occasionally small vertebrates such as rodents. Documentation shows that they also scavenge on human remains, cause disarticulation of smaller bones from the axial skeleton and speed up the decomposition process. 
This study aims to document and analyse potential taphonomic markers on porcine cadaveric material with a documented scavenging history by Cape grey mongoose. This will be accomplished through hotspot mapping and 3D analysis. 


Luthando Swaai

Mr Luthando Swaai
Degree: MSc (Med) Anatomy
Thesis title: The anatomical variants of the ulnar nerve and incidence of perioperative ulnar neuropathy medico-legal cases in the Southern African region
Supervisor: Ms Jeshika Luckrajh
Co-supervisor(s): A/Prof Geney Gunston; Ms Kerri Keet

Ulnar neuropathy has been described as a common yet unexplained perioperative complication. According to the American Society of Anaesthesiologists, it accounts for a third of all iatrogenic nerve related injuries. Due to the severe nature of this injury which commonly leads to chronic pain and disability, malpractice litigation is often pursued by patients. Incorrect positioning of the arm during surgery may stretch or compress the ulnar nerve leading to neuropathy. However, there are also several anatomical variations of the ulnar nerve-cubital tunnel complex which may lead to entrapment of the ulnar nerve. Furthermore, osteological variation such as an enlarged coronoid process of the ulnar bone may compromise blood supply to the nerve. Predisposing anatomical variations may contribute to the aetiology of ulnar neuropathy and it is therefore necessary for these factors to be taken into account during the investigation of medicolegal cases. In addition, the level of awareness towards ulnar neuropathy by surgeons may also be a contributing factor.
The study brought forward these research questions: What are the anatomical parameters of the ulnar nerve? What is the incidence of variations of the ulnar nerve? What is the incidence of perioperative ulnar neuropathy medico-legal lawsuits in Southern African region?
Therefore, to answer these questions, this project will utilise embalmed bodies to investigate anatomical parameters of the ulnar nerve and access Southern African medico-legal databases to document the incidence of medico-legal cases of perioperative ulnar neuropathy in the Southern African region. 

Contact details: Email



Graduated Masters Students

2023 Jessica Garlick : MSc (Med) (Applied Anatomy): Variations in the circulus arteriosus cerebri, Circle of Willis, in a South African sample and the potential to predispose people to aneurysms and ischaemic stroke.
Supervisors: Professor Graham Louw and Dr Kentse Mpolokeng

2023 Daniël Kotze : MSc (Med) (Biological Anthropology) : Assessing the applicability of the pulp/tooth area ratio method for estimating adult age-at-death in a South African sample: A comparative study using digital periapical radiography and stereomicroscopy

Supervisors: A/Prof. Victoria Gibbon and Mr Calvin Mole

2023 Mbalentle Madolo MSc (Med)  (Applied Anatomy): A dissection and angiographic study of anatomical variations of the anterior communicating artery complex in a South African sample.
Supervisor:  Dr Kentse Mpolokeng Co-supervisors: A/Prof Geney Gunston and Dr Stuart More

2023 Chelsey Voegt : MSc ( Biological Anthropology)  Gender and life stage as risk factors of perimortem injuries in South African medicolegal death investigations (MDIs).

Supervisors: Assoc. Prof Victoria Gibbon and Dr. Elizabeth Dinkele

2022. Sadiyah Malek. MSc (Med) (Biological Anthropology). Assessment and improvement of current sex estimation standards for application in Holocene San and Khoekhoe populations. Supervisors: A/Prof Victoria Gibbon; Prof Judith Sealy (Department of Archaeology, UCT).

2021. Athi Baliso. MSc (Med) (Biological Anthropology). Identification of the deceased: A retrospective review of Forensic Anthropology Cape Town casework. Supervisors: A/Prof Victoria Gibbon & Dr. Laura Heathfield (Department of Pathology, UCT).

2020. Tarryn Haikney. MPhil (Pathology). Investigation into DNA recovered from human teeth for forensic applications. Supervisors: Dr. Laura Heathfield (Department of Pathology, UCT) & A/Prof Victoria Gibbon.

2020. Christie Putter MSc (Med) (Biological Anthropology). Black River Excavation: A forensic anthropological investigation of the skeletal remains recovered from a historic cemetery. Supervisors: Dr Jacqui Friedling & Dr Mary Patrick.

2019. Tafadzwa Tawha. MPhil (Pathology). Geometric morphometric analyses to assess the accuracy of the zygoma for estimating ancestry in a South African population. Supervisors: A/Prof Victoria Gibbon, Elizabeth Dinkele & Calvin Mole (Department of Pathology, UCT).

2019. Kyle Paulssen. MSc (Med) (Anatomy). Axillary web syndrome after treatment for breast cancer: a correlation of clinical variables with imaging data focusing on fascial changes before and after physiotherapy treatment. Supervisors: A/Prof Delva Shamley & Dr. Charles Slater.

2018. Elizabath Dinkele.MSc (Med) (Biological Anthropology). Ancestral variation in mid-craniofacial morphology of a South African sample. Supervisor: Dr Jacqui Friedling.

2018. Chandra Longden-Thurgood. MPhil (Pathology). Optimisation of DNA Extraction from Teeth Submerged in Seawater in False Bay, South Africa. Supervisor: A/Prof Victoria Gibbon & Dr. Laura Heathfield (Department of Pathology, UCT).

2018. Liesl Arendse. MSc (Med) (Biological Anthropology). Stature estimation: Evaluating regression formulae for different population groups in South Africa. Supervisor: Dr. Jacqui Friedling.

2016. Schwab Petra. MPhil (Pathology). The importance of a protocol in the recovery and handling of burned human remains in a forensic context. Supervisors: Dr. Jacqui Friedling and Dr. S Maistry.

2015. Clarke Carrie. MSc (Med) (Biological Anthropology). Does variation in facial fatness affect soft tissue thickness standards? Supervisors: Prof. Alan G. Morris and Dr. Jacqui Friedling.

2014. Du Toit Francesca. MSc (Med) (Applied Anatomy). Circulus arteriosus cerebri: Anatomical variations and their correlation to cerebral aneurysms. Supervisor: Prof. Graham Louw.

2014. Sadler Max. MSc (Med) (Applied Anatomy). Variations in the insertions of tibialis posterior muscle and the structure of the medial longitudinal arch. Supervisor: Prof. Graham Louw.

2013. Maass Petra. MSc (Med) (Biological Anthropology). The bony pelvis: With specific attention to the areas of occurrence of the scars of parturition. Supervisor: Dr. Jacqui Friedling.

2013. Meyer Anja. MSc (Biological Anthropology). An assessment of metabolic bone disease in the skeletal remains of Chinese indentured mine labourers from the Witwatersrand. Supervisors: Prof. Maryna Steyn and Prof. Alan G. Morris. University of Pretoria.

2013. Rip da Silva. MSc (Med) (Applied Anatomy). Anatomical study of the variation in the branching patterns and histology of the aorta in a South African population. Supervisors: Dr Geney Gunston and Dr R Alexander.

2013. Van der Berg Kerri. MSc (Med) (Applied Anatomy). An investigation of the brachial plexus and surrounding anatomical structures in a Southern African cadaver sample. Supervisor: Prof. Graham Louw.

2012. Speed Belinda. MSc (Med) (Biological Anthropology). South African standards for age estimation of children between 0 and 13 years using radiographs of the hand and wrist. Supervisor: Prof. Alan G. Morris.

2010. Rossouw Lache. MSc (Med) (Biological Anthropology). A forensic anthropological investigation of skeletal remains recovered from a 1000 year old archaeological site in North-western Namibia. Supervisor: Prof. Alan G. Morris.

2010. Dembetembe Kundisai. MSc (Med) (Biological Anthropology). Age estimation using epiphyseal closure at the wrist joint: an investigation of individuals of African origin, age 14 to 22.  Supervisor: Prof. Alan G. Morris.

2008. Gangata Hope. MSc (Med) (Applied Anatomy). An investigation into the parameters related to the equinus ankle in children with hemiplegic and diplegic forms of cerebral palsy. Supervisor: Supervisor: Prof. Graham Louw.

2008. Jenkins C. MPhil (Orthopaedics). Can a ‘one off’ physiotherapy intervention help patients who have difficulty kneeling after unicompartmental knee arthroplasty? Supervisor: Dr. Delva Shamley. Oxford Brookes University.

2008. Manyaapelo Thabang. MSc (Med) (Biological Anthropology). An odontological analysis of 18th and 19th century burials from in and around Cape Town. Supervisor: Prof. Alan G. Morris.

2006. Dlamini Nonhlanhla. MSc (Med) (Biological Anthropology). An assessment of the health status by non-specific stress indicators of the early farming populations from central and southern Africa. Supervisor: Prof. Alan G. Morris.

2003. Friedling L Jacqui. MSc (Med) (Biological Anthropology). Dental modification practices on the Cape Flats in the Western Cape. Supervisor: Prof. Alan G. Morris.

2002. Sanders Victoria. MSc. (Med) (Applied Anatomy). An assessment of muscle insertion sites and biomechanical beam analysis in living subjects. Supervisors: Prof. Alan G. Morris and Prof. Graham Louw.

2000. Nyati L. MSc (Med) (Applied Anatomy). Cross-sectional observations of growth and maturation in children with Down Syndrome. MSc, University of Pretoria. Supervisors:  Prof. Maryna Steyn and Prof. Graham Louw.

1998. Apollonio H. MA (Med) (Archaeology). Identifying the dead: 18th century mortuary practices at Cobern Street, Cape Town. Supervisors: Prof. Martin Hall and Prof. Alan G. Morris.

1997. Botha W. MSc (Med) (Biomedical Engineering). An anthropometric survey of female nurses working in the Western Cape: implications for equipment and workspace design. Supervisors: Bob Bridges and Prof. Alan G. Morris.

1994. Bell Christine. MSc (Med) (Applied Anatomy). Clinically-defined osteoarthritis, sex and age: their influence on the geometry, morphology and biomechanics of the upper cervical spine. Supervisor: Prof. Alan G. Morris.

1993. Kovacs Jonathan. MSc (Med) (Biological Anthropology). The post-cranial remains of Papio ursinus and fossil baboons from South African Australopithecine sites. Supervisor: Prof. Alan G. Morris.

1989. Patrick Mary K. MA (Med) (Archaeology). An archaeological and anthropological study of the human skeletal remains from the Oakhurst Rock Shelter, George, Cape Province, South Africa. Supervisor: Prof. Alan G. Morris.