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Biological Anthropology

Biological Anthropology is the scientific study of human biological diversity and how it evolved. It therefore includes the following areas of research and inquiry: human skeletal biology, paleoanthropology/human evolution, human growth and development, forensic anthropology, bioarchaeology, human biological diversity and environmental adaptation, anthropological genetics and ancient DNA studies, dental anthropology and primatology.

Biological Anthropology in the School of Anatomical Sciences has a long history, beginning with Professor Raymond Dart and his pioneering contributions to paleoanthropological studies of early human ancestors from South Africa. The Taung child and other notable fossils are part of this heritage. Professor Phillip V Tobias continued that paleoanthropological tradition, and also contributed to our understanding of the human biology of South African populations, the evolution of the human brain, and the history of biological anthropology.

The Biological Anthropology Division currently has ten research staff (Brendon Billings, Nanette Briers, Desire Brits, Jason Hemingway, Tobias Houlton (Postdoc), Erin Hutchinson, Anthony Mwakikunga (Postdoc), Anja Meyer, Lynne Schepartz and Maryna Steyn). They have active research programs in South Africa, Nigeria, Malawi, China, Denmark, the Netherlands and Greece.

Professor Lynne A. Schepartz (Division Head) (PhD 1987, University of Michigan) joined the Wits Health Sciences faculty in October 2011. An active fieldworker and researcher in human skeletal biology and palaeoanthropology, she currently works in China and Greece in addition to coordinating research on human skeletal and dental diversity in South Africa, Nigeria and Malawi. Professor Schepartz is also an Honorary Research Fellow at the Institute for Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and a Consulting Scholar for the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology.

Researchers in the Division of Biological Anthropology are members of the Human Variation and Identification Research Unit (HVIRU) that was established in 2016.