Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The New World Cemetaary for the Esclaves de Rio

Black slaves of different nation in Brazil circa 1830.

Tom Phillips of the Sidney Morning Herald reported "Cemetery sheds light on slavery," on 27 December 2011: RIO DE JANEIRO: Locals called it the cemetery of the new blacks, but it was a cemetery only in name. Devoid of headstones, wreaths or tearful mourners, this squalid harbourside burial ground was the final resting place for thousands of Africans shipped into slavery.

The New World greeted them with a lonely death in an unfamiliar land. For decades the cemetery and those buried there between 1760 and 1830 were forgotten, hidden under layer after layer of urban development.

But 15 years after the cemetery's discovery - when builders unearthed a series of muddy skeletons - academics now believe they have evidence of the true reach of the slave trade.

The study of teeth from 30 partial skeletons has hinted that slaves arriving in Rio - many of whom were sold on to work in coffee and sugar plantations or goldmines - came from a much wider geographical region than once thought.

Archaeologists and anthropologists studying bone and tooth fragments are shedding light on the horrors of a trade in which at least 3 million slaves were shipped from Africa to Brazil between 1550 and 1888, when the practice was abolished.

''It was ugly: a dump into which bodies were thrown and burnt,'' said Sheila Mendonca de Souza, a bio-archaeologist studying the cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, once one of the busiest slave ports in the Americas.

Using strontium isotope analyses of tooth enamel, academics were able to confirm the large area from where the ''new blacks'' came.

The results indicated that slavers had ''waded way into the interior'' of Africa instead of restricting their search to coastal areas, said Della Cook, a biological anthropologist from the University of Indiana.

A parallel study of cosmetic tooth modifications, common in some regions of Africa, also underlined the scope of the slave trade.

Dr Mendonca said her team had found tooth markings indicating some of the slaves were native to what are now Sudan and Mozambique, in north-eastern and southern Africa.

Archaeologists believe as many as 20,000 slaves may have been buried at the cemetery, mostly men between 18 and 25 years of age, who died during the gruelling journey to Brazil or shortly after arriving.

The 3 million slaves who made the journey were previously thought to have come only from what is now Nigeria and from the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Cape Verde. (source: Sidney Morning Herlad)

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