Bioarchaeology and the Slave Trade

I was just reading about the excavation at Elmina on the coast of Ghana. Dr. Chris DeCorse of Syracuse University will be talking to AIA-Houston this Wednesday night about his excavations at Elmina, the first and largest trade post established by Europeans in sub-Saharan Africa. I had pictured a large slave castle. I actually had images of the final scene of Spielberg’s Amistad when the slave castles were blasted into rubble. But a look at information from the website of the Penn Museum shows a very different sort of archaeological  effort—BIOARCHAEOLOGICAL.

Elmina Castle now

It seems the Dr. DeCorse and his colleagues are looking at the human remains that they have found in their excavations at Elmina, which is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in all of Africa and was a major trading city with a substantial population. As the site says, “This study focuses on the biological impact of the cultural transformations that accompanied European contact and the consequences of the slave trade upon African populations.”

Elmina Castle then

I guess there’s still a big part of me that is the little boy reading about Heinrich Schliemann and dreaming of discovering his own Troy, but so much of archaeology focuses on the smaller human elements that tell us so much about who we were. I’m really looking forward to this lecture. After all, Dr. DeCorse is a graduate of UCLA (as am I!)