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The personal stories of 3 enslaved Africans, as told by their bones

April 30, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

The history of enslaved Africans brought to Latin America has yet to be fully explored. Scientists tell the stories of three 16th-century enslaved Africans identified from a mass burial site in Mexico City, according to analyses of their bones.

In a study published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, scientists tell the stories of three 16th-century enslaved Africans identified from a mass burial site in Mexico City, according to analyses of their bones.

Barquera and his team of researchers are hoping that their findings, captured within the bones of these enslaved Africans, will be a step in sharing their stories and addressing the erasure of history in the self-identities of Mexican peoples.

When the researchers noticed modifications on the individuals' teeth indicating different African cultural practices, they decided to study their genetics and personal histories.

More than 500 years ago in 1518, Charles I of Spain authorized retrieving and transporting the first enslaved Africans to the Viceroyalty of New Spain, which ultimately consisted of present day Mexico, the Caribbean, parts of the United States and Canada and Central America except for Panama, the study said.

High demand for enslaved manual laborers and establishment of the first European settlements in what's referred to as the "New World" spurred the growth and consolidation of the transatlantic slave trade, which forcibly deported 10. 6 to 19. 4 million Africans from their homelands until slavery was abolished in most of the Americas in the 1860s, the study reported.

Five centuries later, the study said, the hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans form a large part of Mexico's genetic and cultural heritage.

The bones of all the individuals were transferred to the Osteology Laboratory at the National School of Anthropology and History in Mexico, where little work was performed on them aside from anthropological studies, Barquera said.

"So we were wondering whether we could do a more detailed study on these three individuals, trying to tell the whole story of what happened with them and why they were found in this mass burial in a hospital that was devoted to taking care of indigenous populations and not other populations like Africans or Europeans," Barquera said.

"This kind of analysis is particularly informative when studying the life history of enslaved people, as much of what we know about their lives comes from records that were kept by their oppressors, which are often considered to be biased and lacking in details about the origins and day-to-day lives of enslaved individuals," said √Čadaoin Harney, a doctoral candidate in organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard University.

As yaws is associated with poor hygiene, it's unsurprising that skeletal signs of these diseases have been reported in other African enslaved individuals from similar historic periods in Europe, the study said.

Interdisciplinary studies on enslaved people are necessary not only to inform the science and education needed to tell the whole story, but social understanding as well, Barquera said.

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