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Documenting the Forced Migration of Enslaved Peoples at the Grassmere Plantation, Nashville, Tennessee Using Strontium and Lead Isotope Analyses

Author(s): Tiffiny A. Tung ; George Kamenov ; Kristina Lee ; John Krigbaum

Year: 2017

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Summary

The Grassmere Plantation in Nashville, Tennessee was established in 1810, and documents show that unnamed, enslaved peoples labored there throughout the decades until emancipation. Our research investigates whether enslaved laborers were born and raised on the plantation or were forcibly moved there later in their lives. To address that question, we analyzed strontium and lead isotope ratios from tooth enamel. Twenty burials were recovered from Grassmere, and we obtained strontium and lead isotope ratios from 12 teeth representing 10 of those individuals. The strontium isotope ratios range from 0.70963 to 0.71303 and the mean 87Sr/86Sr = 0.71097. For lead isotopes, the 206Pb/204Pb range is 18.4 to 21.5 (mean=20.3); 207Pb/204Pb range is 15.6 to 15.9 (mean=15.8); and 208Pb/204Pb ranges from 38.4 to 41.1 (mean=40). Independent verification of local strontium and anthropogenic lead ratios remains to be determined; however, the observed range and cluster of these data strongly suggest there were two, perhaps three, different geographical origins represented by the 10 individuals. This is consistent with oxygen isotope data, with δ18OVPDB values that range from -2.6 to -6.1. Together, the isotope data suggest that several of the individuals were probably purchased at slave markets later in life and forcibly relocated to Grassmere.


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Documenting the Forced Migration of Enslaved Peoples at the Grassmere Plantation, Nashville, Tennessee Using Strontium and Lead Isotope Analyses. Tiffiny A. Tung, George Kamenov, Kristina Lee, John Krigbaum. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429478)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -91.274; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -72.642; max lat: 36.386 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15842

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