Ancient DNA Perspectives on Kinship and Racialized Labor at a 17th century Delaware Frontier Site


The Avery’s Rest archaeological site near Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, represents an early phase of European colonization in North America. Previous archaeological and osteological analysis conducted by the Archaeological Society of Delaware and the Smithsonian Institution, respectively, indicated the presence of two burial clusters containing 11 excellently preserved individuals, one containing individuals of European ancestry and the other individuals of African ancestry. Ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis was subsequently undertaken to identify the phylogeographic origin of and possible kinship between individuals at the site. We successfully extracted and sequenced the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region for all 11 individuals. Our results confirmed the geographic ancestry assigned to these individuals through osteological analysis. In addition, they revealed that half of the eight European individuals shared the same mtDNA haplotype, suggesting they were maternally related, while the three African individuals appear to have originated from different areas of Africa. Together, the aDNA data and burial organization of Avery’s Rest provides insights into the organization of labor at the site, suggests that kinship was an important influence during the early colonization of the New World, and reveals new details about slave trade origins on the 17th century Chesapeake frontier.

Cite this Record

Ancient DNA Perspectives on Kinship and Racialized Labor at a 17th century Delaware Frontier Site. Raquel Fleskes, Frankie West, Graciela Cabana, Theodore Schurr. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 442614)

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Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22295