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Genetic impact of slavery abolition in Mauritius: Ancient DNA data from Le Morne and Bois Marchand cemeteries

Author(s): Carlos Bustamante ; Martin Sikora ; Rosa Fregel ; Hannes Schroeder ; Krish Seetah

Year: 2015

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Summary

From a demographic point of view, the island of Mauritius can be considered a multicultural melting-pot derived from forced and free labor, as it was there where the British conducted the 'Great Experiment' to replace slaves with indentured workers after abolition.

Despite the huge potential that Mauritius offers for studying admixed populations, it has remained uncharacterized from a genetic perspective until now. Several genetic markers have been analyzed in the current Mauritius population with the aim of understanding its present-day structure. However, to better ascertain the temporal evolution of its composition, the analysis of ancient human remains is required.

Ancient DNA data was retrieved from two different archaeological sites in Mauritius. The cemetery of Le Morne dates from the 1830s and is thought to contain the remains of slaves or freed slaves, within the maroonage movement of slaves’ freedom. The Bois Marchand site is a nineteenth-century cemetery that is expected to reflect the population composition during the indentured worker period.

Here, we present a comparison of the genetic composition of historical and modern samples to interpret population genetic changes in Mauritius over time, within the historical context of European colonialism, transoceanic slave trade, and Indian and Chinese diasporas.

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Genetic impact of slavery abolition in Mauritius: Ancient DNA data from Le Morne and Bois Marchand cemeteries. Rosa Fregel, Martin Sikora, Krish Seetah, Hannes Schroeder, Carlos Bustamante. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397135)


Keywords


Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America