by Jacob Euster & Grant Sherwood

According to Stojanowski and Duncan (Stojanowski 2015), there are three lenses through which one can view bioarchaeological remains: the social sciences, natural sciences, and a humanistic approach. For these papers, a lens will be chosen to analyze the lifestyles and experiences of slaves. The authors will pursue an idea restricted to slavery yet broadly connected to the larger theme of democratization and international conflict, which will be centered around the social sciences and humanistic approaches. These two studies will not only give researchers an idea of past societies and past social dynamics, but provide useful perspectives for today. The data used will also help look at the process of democratization and the operation of slavery within a democracy. In addition, the analysis will address the themes of international conflict through forced migration and treatment during enslavement. The information within these pages will help educate the general public on the treatment and hardships many enslaved individuals faced during their lives. Understanding this unsavory aspect of history allows the public to learn from these mistakes of mistreatment to create a better future.

Understanding this unsavory aspect of history allows the public to learn from these mistakes of mistreatment to create a better future.

Grant Sherwood will be using a social science perspective in his paper and seeks to find differences among the diets of slaves. More specifically s/he/they aims to investigate whether there were regional differences in their diet and how diet was affected by location. His paper also attempts to establish the treatment of slaves through diet, and the impact on democratization of the United States. Data gathered from dietary changes then allows for a better look at the past lives of slaves. The data will focus on the stable isotope analysis of δ15N collagen and δ13C collagen to examine the change and variations in diet. These isotopes present a picture of the diet of the groups in South Africa, Antigua, Barbados, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, and the Northeast Caribbean (Dent 2016; Mbeki 2016; Varney 2003). This paper also references first-hand accounts from slaves to corroborate the data retrieved and interpreted (Covey 2009).

Jacob Euster takes a humanistic approach when viewing slave remains and their contexts. This approach draws on sources such as mortuary practices in Brazil, Newton Plantation in Barbados, and the African Burial Ground in New York City to support these claims. Euster attempts to produce a succinct, yet detailed osteobiography of the general lives of slaves in the New World through these sources. This biography includes sources on regional patterns of forced migration, as well as the leisure activities of slaves and the subjectivity of individual slave experiences. Although these sources are geographically varied, they all focus on slave skeletons exhumed from common burial sites and combine to offer a singular narrative of slavery in the New World.

Through this set of essays, the reader will find the injustices of slavery illuminated. Bioarchaeology, especially through the use of the three lenses noted above, has the ability to take past human remains and contextualize them in a manner that is easily understandable and applicable in a modern framework.


Covey, H. C., & Eisnach, D. (2009). What the slaves ate: Recollections of African American foods and foodways from the slave narratives. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press.

Dent, S. C. (2016). Interindividual differences in embodied marginalization: osteological and stable isotope analyses of antebellum enslaved individuals. American Journal of Human Biology, 1-16.

Mbeki, L., Kootker, L. M., Kars, H., & Davies, G. R. (2016). Sickly slaves, soldiers and sailors. contextualising the Cape’s 18th–19th century Green Point burials through isotope investigation. Journal of Archaeological Science, 11, 480-490.

Stojanowski, C.M., & Duncan, W.N. (2015). Engaging bodies in the public imagination: bioarchaeology as social science, science, and humanities. American Journal of Human Biology, 27, 51-60.

Varney, T. L. (2004). Reconstructing diet and tracing life histories in colonial populations of the northeastern Caribbean using stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes. Dissertation Abstracts International, 65, 201.

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Slavery, Democratization, and International Conflict in Humanistic Bioarchaeology, by Jacob Euster

Slave Diet Reconstruction in New and Old-World Slave Populations, by Grant Sherwood

Conclusion, by Jacob Euster & Grant Sherwood

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