New York African Burial Ground Skeletal Biology Final Report, Volume 1. Chapter 14. Discussion


The explanatory frameworks of this study are heavily influenced by our

understanding of the historical expediencies of European economic exploitation and power, and the ways these imperatives came to be played out in the condition of Africans in the Atlantic World. Of course, imperatives of safety, profit, moral legitimacy and so forth were negotiated as Europeans wrestled with conditions they could not entirely control, including the needs and responses of Africans themselves. The “hows” and “whys” of the biological effects we have examined are largely explicable in terms of historical, political, and economic motivations, practices, and policies, as well as modes of resistance to them and other limiting factors, such as the natural environment. Why are babies dying? Slave holders do not want them for economic reasons at this time and in this place. The evidence of growth delays in children suggests a lack of investment in them by those empowered to do so. While African women also at times allowed their children to die rather than make them into slaves, at other times we see clear archaeological evidence (Archaeology Final Report, forthcoming) of profound love of children, in this mortuary context. And in New York, there were few opportunities for family formation with men and women working and sleeping in isolated workshops and homes, respectively (see History Final Report, Chapters 4.0 and 8.0). The sex ratio, ages, and sources of new arrivals reflected English struggles to control Africans who rebelled and to capitalize on market availability and the price of captives. Sex ratio affects fertility and the spread of diseases affecting child mortality, particularly where females are disempowered as they were under American slavery. Each chapter has examples of biological effects of power and poverty. We will not attempt to explain the more interesting details which each author does best in his and her own words. This discussion is meant as a starting point for pulling together the shadowy evidence that human skeletons bear on 419 all-but-forgotten lives.

Cite this Record

New York African Burial Ground Skeletal Biology Final Report, Volume 1. Chapter 14. Discussion. Michael L. Blakey, Lesley M. Rankin-Hill, Alan Goodman, Fatimah Jackson. In New York African Burial Ground Skeletal Biology Final Report, Volume 1. Pp. 541-556. 2004 ( tDAR id: 366113) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8B27T1Q

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Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1640 to 1800

Spatial Coverage

min long: -74.017; min lat: 40.7 ; max long: -73.993; max lat: 40.726 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): General Services Administration Northeastern and Caribbean Region

Prepared By(s): National Park Serivce

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