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Prof. Maryna Steyn

- By Wits University

Professor Maryna Steyn was appointed Head of the School of Anatomical Sciences in May 2015.

She obtained her Bachelor of Medicine in 1983 at the University of Pretoria (UP) and completed a Wits PhD in 1994 with a thesis titled: An assessment of the health status and physical characteristics of the prehistoric population of Mapungubwe.

Steyn joins Wits from UP where she started as a lecturer in 1988 progressing to a full professor in 2003. In 2008 she was appointed director of the Forensic Anthropology Research Centre. Dedicated to teaching and learning, she assisted in the development of integrated curricula, computer-aided programmes and guided several rounds of curricula content changes among other duties.

She has supervised and co-supervised 18 masters and 10 PhD students, and will be supervising/co-supervising another three masters and seven PhD students this year. Prior to joining academia, she held various posts at Tembisa Hospital and the then HF Verwoerd Hospital now known as the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria. 

She has a strong research background and has co-operated with many archaeologists both at local and international universities and museums. An NRF-rated scientist, she has over 100 scientific papers to her credit, 13 book chapters and is a co-author of the 3rd edition of the book: The Human Skeleton in Forensic Medicine.

What have been some of your career highlights? My fondest and most abiding memory is my time doing field work. I loved the archaeological field work we carried out at sites such as Thulamela and Mapungubwe and the repatriation of the Ebo 4 from Angola. I have also conducted a great deal of forensic case work and have submitted reports on varied and high profile cases which have included victims of the Moses Sithole, David Simelane and Mark Scott-Crossley cases.

Your work has been very research orientated, what contribution do you hope to make as Head?  Yes my career has been research focused and I regard my legacy at UP as being my postgraduate students. I am enormously proud of them. I left a department with five staff with PhDs who I have mentored and I am so proud of them. I hope to contribute to the strong research focus in anthropology. It is tremendously exciting walking in the hallways of Professors Raymond Dart and Phillip Tobias who were key figures in the history of this School. Given my research background, this is a privilege and I greatly look forward to it.

How do you relax? I have been married for 32 years and have two daughters. I love travelling, the outdoors, birdwatching, tennis and boogie boarding in Jeffrey’s Bay.

This is an edited version of an article published in the June 2015 Health Sciences Reviews, a monthly newsletter produced by the Faculty of Health Sciences. To subscribe, email or