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Ancient DNA study sheds light on lost history of American slavery


WASHINGTON- A recent study has revealed the diverse origins of 18th-century African descendants in Charleston, South Carolina, shedding new light on the lost history of American slavery.

The remains of 36 African-descended individuals dating to the late 18th century were unearthed by construction workers.

This was done about a decade ago during an expansion project of the Gaillard Centre, an arts venue in the port city of Charleston.

Through the Anson Street African Burial Ground Project, researchers had  investigated the lives of 36 individuals, who were believed to be mostly enslaved people of African descent, using bioarchaeological and genomic methods.

Researchers said a few of the enslaved people could be among the estimated 175,000 Africans brought through the port of Charleston, which was a hub for the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The latest study, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences early this year, showed that genomic data from 18 individuals revealed a diversity of ancestral connections across western Africa, including Gambia and Gabon.

Their ages ranged from under three  to over 50.

The study indicated that these persons of presumed enslaved status had  predominantly West and West-Central African genomic ancestry, with one individual exhibiting some genomic affiliation with populations in the Americas.

“Overall, this study expands our understanding of the colonial histories of African descendant populations in the U.S. South,’’ said Raquel Fleskes.

Fleskes is a biological anthropologist from the University of Connecticut, the lead author of the study.

According to an earlier report by the BBC, more than 12.5 million Africans were traded between 1515 and the mid-19th century.

Some two million of them died en route to the Americas. (Xinhua/NAN)

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