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Archaeology of Urban Bondage

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The unexpected re-discovery and the ensuing excavation of the African Burial Ground - known in the 18th century as the “Negro Burial Ground” - lifted the lid on the early history of African presence in this part of the United States East Coast. The African Burial Ground Memorial is today one of the land-mark managed by the National Park Service, as a tribute to these men, women, and children, enslaved to build the wealth of that extraordinary and vibrant metropolis.

The author of Archaeology of Urban Bondage has been part of the African Burial research project from its beginning in 1993 to its end in 2006 and this volume is the only comprehensive presentation of this unique project in its multidisciplinary dimension. It looks at the enslavement of Africans in the Atlantic world from their origins in Africa, their life and death in New Amsterdam-New York in the 17th -18th East coast, relying on history, archaeology, and bio-anthropology. The argumentation is rigorously fact-based and inferences data driven.

The archaeology and history of the African presence in northeast United States are not limited to a European – African face to face. The genesis of the “Negro Burial Ground” is the result of different strands of history. Some issues, like the location of the African burial ground, generally taken for granted as starting point, are problematized in this book. Important questions as “why is the African burial ground located where it was?”, “how was the cemetery built up?”, “what are the key patterns of the buried population?”, “can agency and intentionality be discerned in the archaeological record at hand?”, are framed and addressed. Organized in two parts and framed from the “Global Africa” theoretical perspective, the book weaves data from history, archaeology, and biological anthropology to craft an integrated narrative on the deceased buried in the African Burial Ground.

Published: Feb 1, 2024