A team of scientists working on bone and tooth samples from the slaves buried at the Newton sugar cane plantation in Barbados have used isotope analysis to determine that they were abducted and brought to the island from different regions in Africa. ‘We knew from historical records that the plantation was worked by African slaves,’ says archaeologist Dr Hannes Schroeder who led the research while working for his PhD at the University of Oxford. ‘But now we have a method that enables us to identify first-generation captives among the burials and to trace their origins back to their native Africa.’
Previous research at Newton mainly focused on the slaves’ nutrition and physical quality of life. But their origin was still a mystery. The new research has helped clarify the origin of some of the individuals buried at the site. Schroeder and his team collected bone and tooth samples from the skeletons of 25 individuals, hoping to find clues in their isotopic composition. ‘Bone tissue remodels throughout life whereas teeth remain the same after they are formed. If the isotopic ratios vary between the bones and teeth of a single individual , then this suggests a major change in diet and possibly residence at some point during life,’ he explained. For the seven individuals from Newton, the change occurred when they were abducted from their native Africa and transported to a life of slavery in the Caribbean.
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Photo can be found in its original context at http://hitchcock.itc.virginia.edu/Slavery/details.php?categorynum=14&categoryName=&theRecord=2&recordCount=38