EUROTAST network members Marcela Sandoval Velasco, Kate Robson-Brown, Thomas Gilbert and Hannes Schroeder are presenting a paper along with their colleagues at the upcoming EAA-SAA Joint Meeting Archaeological Perspectives on Slavery, Trade, and Colonialism in Curaçao, 5-7 November, 2015.
Title: The Freed Slaves of Saint Helena: Genomic Analyses of 19th Century
Human Remains Shed Light on Enslaved Africans Geographic Origins and
Abstract: At the end of the first half of the nineteenth century, at a time when the British Royal Navy was trying to impose the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, the island of Saint Helena served as a liberated African Establishment in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Between 1840 and 1872, around 26,000 freed slaves were disembarked on the island, many of whom died shortly after arrival due to the appalling conditions on the ships and the living conditions on the island.
Historical records suggest that the slaves came from West Central Africa, but their precise origins remain unknown. In this study, we generated genome-wide data from enriched ancient DNA libraries. We assess African population diversity during the slave trade by identifying the geographic origins of 50 enslaved Africans that were brought to St. Helena. By tracing geographic source populations to different sub-continental modern populations within Africa, we shed new light on the origins of the freed slaves of Saint Helena and the workings of the transatlantic slave trade during that time period.