A New Approach to Identifying the African Origins of Enslaved Laborers Using Isotope Analysis of Archaeological Skeletal Remains
Having identified the African-born individuals in the assemblage, the question remained as to where in Africa they had come from. Unfortunately, the method does not allow us to pinpoint specific locations in Africa in which individuals were born and spent their formative years. However, the data clearly demonstrate that the seven African-born individuals did not all originate from the same part of Africa. Instead, the data suggest that they might have grown up in at least three different areas, possibly including the Gold Coast and the Senegambia (see map below). These findings offer rare insights into the origins and life histories of enslaved Africans and illustrate how scientific analyses can contribute to our understanding of colonial history and the transatlantic slave trade. Current work tries to integrate the results of the study with the archaeological data from the site and future analyses using ancestry-informative genetic markers might yield further insights into the origins of Newton’s enslaved population and their descendants.