Dr Maciej Henneberg: “Precise and respectful recovery of buried human remains”

Dr Maciej Henneberg will speak to the Orange 2019 CCANSW Conference about the  “Precise and respectful recovery of buried human remains”

Human body, after it is buried undergoes a series of natural processes (taphonomic processes) that eventually remove soft tissues while skeletal remains (teeth and bones) remain for a long time. The exact time of the decomposition of soft tissues, and degradation of skeletal remains depends on the materials protecting the body and on soil chemistry. In acidic soil the entire body, including the skeleton, can disappear in a few decades, while in some well-drained soils the bones undergo mineralisation and can last for thousands of years. Archaeologists, and forensic investigators have developed techniques of recovery from graves of all preserved skeletal remains with minimum damage. These techniques will be explained. Also, the anatomy of the human skeleton will be explained so that all exhumed skeletal remains can be systematically identified and no skeletal remains are left in the soil after the excavation.

Programs of human body donations to science will be briefly discussed in terms of their organisation, use of donated remains and eventual disposal of remains no longer needed.

The talk will be illustrated by real forensic/archeological exhumations done by my team.

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Maciej Henneberg, PhD, DSc, FRSB is an Emeritus Wood Jones Professor of Anthropological and Comparative Anatomy in the Adelaide Medical School, University of Adelaide, an Adjunct Professor, Archaeology, Flinders University of South Australia, Visiting Professor in the Institute of Evolutionary Medicine, University of Zurich, Switzerland and an International Fellow of UBVO at the Oxford University, UK. He is also an Editor in Chief of the Journal of Comparative Human Biology HOMO. Published 5 books, 5 monographs and 400 research papers/book chapters that were cited 7,506 times in the world literature.

Born in Poland, educated at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan (Biology, Master degree in Human Biology, doctorate in physical anthropology and the higher doctorate in anthropology) where he started his academic career as a lecturer. Conducted research on ancient human skeletons and excavated historical cemeteries. Invited in 1978 to teach at the University of Texas at Austin, worked there also as the State Archaeologist organising and supervising recovery of Late Archaic American Indian skeletons from the burial ground Loma Sandia in the Live Oak County, Texas. In 1986 moved to the University of Cape Town, South Africa as an Associate Professor of Anatomy, but continued collaboration with the Institute of Classical Archaeology, University of Texas excavating and studying Ancient Greek burials in Metaponto, Italy. In 1990 became a Professor and Head of the Department of Anatomy and Human Biology at the University of the Witwatewrsrand in Johannesburg. His duties included responsibility for the body donation program. Besides excavating burial sites and studying skeletons in South Africa, his continued work in Italy resulted in his, and his wife’s (also a human biologist), invitation in 1993 to study human skeletal remains resulting from the eruption of volcano (Vesuvius) in Pompeii. Studies of ancient human skeletons in Italy are continued today. In 1996 became the Foundation Wood Jones Professor of Anthropological and Comparative Anatomy at the University of Adelaide. At the University of Adelaide was the Head of the anatomy department 1997-2009 responsible for the body donation program. Retired in December 2018, but continues academic activities as an Emeritus Professor.

With his 30 PhD students Maciej developed new methods of diagnosing diseases, age and sex from human skeletal remains. Besides studying human skeletal remains, Maciej run studies of child growth in Indonesia , Africa and Poland, studies of obesity (as the Fellow of the Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity, at Oxford), human evolution, especially the evolution of human brain, and the worldwide epidemiology of cancers. Maciej appeared as a forensic expert of human identification in courts in most jurisdictions in Australia, Poland, United States of America and South Africa.


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