This study concerns the expression of African cultural practices in the population of enslaved persons interred in the African Burial Ground in New York City during the periods of Dutch and British colonial rule. The African Burial Ground was in use from approximately the mid-seventeenth century to the end of the eighteenth century and extended over five to six acres containing between 10,000 and 20,000 graves. A small portion of the burial ground was unearthed in 1991, revealing 418 human remains. I undertake an examination of the grave goods and evidence of the burial positions associated with the individuals recovered from the burial ground during the 1991 excavations, with a specific emphasis on the cosmologies and mortuary practices of the Dutch, British, Akan, Igbo, Yoruba and Fon/Ewe cultures from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. By examining these cultural practices in comparison with the findings in the African Burial Ground in New York City, as evident in Perry et. al. (2006) and Medford (2004), this study explores the extent to which members of the enslaved community undertook expressions of particular African cultural practices. The conclusion of this study supports Herskovits’ observations concerning the continuing development of African cultures in America and that enslaved Africans were not stripped of their cultures during the Middle Passage of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. I also contend that new cultural beliefs and practices developed and were expressed at the New York African Burial Ground which included elements of both African and Anglo-European cosmologies and traditions.
Shia, Mary Keegan
"Presentation of the Body: Living and Dead,"
African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter:
1, Article 4.
Available at: http://scholarworks.umass.edu/adan/vol14/iss1/4