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DNA in a clay pipe sheds light on the life of an enslaved woman

  DNA in a clay pipe sheds light on the life of an enslaved woman

Schablitsky et al. 2019

Clay pipes used for smoking were so widespread in the 1700s and 1800s that it is not very interesting to find fragments of them on archaeological sites from the early days of the United States. But Julie Shablytsky, the chief archaeologist at the Department of Transportation of Maryland, took a second, closer look, to the torn pipe that came out of the floor of the slaveowners on the Belwuard Plantation in Maryland. There she found a hidden piece of life story in an enslaved woman.

An analysis of DNA suggests that a woman who used a tube 1

50 to 200 years ago could trace her roots to Men in Sierra Leone, almost 5,000 miles from where she lived and died in slavery.

Investigation of torn teeth

Kaolin clay used to make common stem tubes is a porous substance and it seeks to absorb liquids such as saliva and blood. As an additional bonus, DNA molecules are well-labeled with silicon particles in clay. In the laboratory, Shlabitsky and her colleagues managed to recover fragments of DNA from two parts of the tube.

One found outside the western edge of the building's foundation has given enough DNA to suggest that the long-dead smoker was a woman but not enough to compare with modern DNA databases to try and find out about its origin. But another, found on the floor by the fireplace, gave a sufficient number of DNA sequences to offer affinity to the men of Sierra Leone.

Today men are one of the two largest ethnic groups in Sierra Leone and their language. Also widespread in neighboring Liberia. The traditional art of Mende includes developed masks that are used in religious and social events as well as colorful fabrics that are popular in West Africa. Several members of the Mende community have become important political leaders in Sierra Leone, and geneticist Rick Keettles says his genetic tests offered ties between men and several Americans, including Senator Cory Bucker, Rev. Martin Luther King, and poet Maya Angela.

But the DNA can not tell us whether a woman who smoked a tube was born in West Africa and experienced the horrors of the Middle Passage whether she was born in the United States to parents who traced their parent's path to Mende. The documents of the 1700s and 1800s indicate that people captured in Sierra Leone were brought to the Chesapeake Bay trading ports. It is estimated that two million people died on this trip between 1500 and 1900, and survivors survived weekly chains under decks in a tight environment with a small amount of food and water

. another. After the demigods left the ships, several documents that mention any of their life paths do not mention their origin. When people left the slave ships, they were not identified by their kind. That is why this discovery is so important; it gives us the fact that there is no tribal relationship, "- said Shablytskyy Arsu.

This conclusion is in good agreement with the available historical data, but it also helps to re-create a link that was otherwise broken up on the docks. And this is vital information for many contemporary descendants of the enslaved people.

"Personal data was once considered unidentified"

"Instead of using recordings of censuses and published mass media, many have to trace their inheritance because of their ancestor's oppressor," wrote Shablitsky and her colleagues. "If you are lucky, the search leads to a record of the attestation, will, or other government records with the names of the orders of their seven."

Only two such documents identify people who were enslaved in Belvoir. The Seven Berley, enslaved by Worthington, who owned a plantation in the early 19th century was identified in documents of manipulation; The Cinderella Brogden, who escaped from the plantation in 1848, is identified in an advertisement offering a $ 100 reward for her return and slavery return. The descendants of both families have worked with archaeologists in Bellevue since 2014. None of them seems to be connected to a woman who once smoked a pipe.

hints about people who have otherwise lost their history, and this can have powerful consequences for people who are hoping to find out more about their families and their ancestors. "Not only data, but also the fact that this information is preserved in order to disclose personal data that was once considered to be unrecognizable is important to them," wrote Shablitsky and her colleagues. can help reconstruct the geographical patterns of trafficking in human beings. "It will take many years, and thousands of pipelines can get there, but it is possible," said Shablitsky, Arsu.

This can also help archaeologists better understand the places where the poor, marginalized people lived and worked in the past. For the poorest sections of the early American population, it's hard to say if homes and artefacts belong to people from one ethnic group or another, or even whether these people were free or enslaved, so an ancient DNA analysis can ease the answer to these questions. This is especially important as archaeologists began to focus more on the way ordinary people live and what factors influenced their lives.

Invisible Life

Shablitsky and her colleagues suggested that a woman might have worked as a cook in slave quarters, cooking food for other slaves on the Belvoir Plantation. If so, then she would live in this 10m × 10m (32ft × 32ft) building with dirt floors and damaged bricks. She would spend long days in the kitchen that occupied the southern part of the building – a room with a large fireplace and a groove under the floor – and slept with 32 other prisoners in the northern room of the building. In addition, the only thing we know about an invisible woman in Bellevira is that she had the habit of holding the tube between her compressed teeth, leaving the grooves in her clay barrel later on. We still do not know her name, but now she is a bit less anonymous and we might never have found out if the archaeologists did not come across the stone foundations of the old neighborhoods of slaves – they were in fact looking for a camp that was used by the French commander Roshamblo under the time of the war for the revolution.

"We were looking for France and found West Africa," said Shablitsky Ars.

Shablitsky and her colleagues collect more sticks from the site in Cambridge, Maryland. For DNA analysis, and Shablitsky told Ars that museums, government agencies and others are already in contact with her team.

Journal of archeological sciences 2019. DOI: 10.1016 / j.2019.02 .006 (about DOI).

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