The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


The legacy of slavery and trade: morphometric assessment of 18th populations dynamics at the Cape of Good Hope

ISABELLE RIBOT1 and ALAN G. MORRIS2.

1Anthropology, University of Montreal, 2Human Biology, University of Cape Town Medical School

Saturday 10:15-10:30, Galleria North Add to calendar

Recently, human bioarchaeology has developed growing research interests on the analysis of historical populations dated within the last three centuries, and especially in relation to the slave trade. This historical phenomenon is explored here in the 18th century Cape Colony of the Dutch East India Company. In fact, the latter was a slave state, drawing its labour from Africa, Asia and Europe and therefore acting as a cultural and biological crossroads. For this project, the skeletons under study originate from Cobern Street burial ground (late 18th century,Cape Town,South Africa, N = 39). Previous archaeological and isotopic analyses of skeletons from this cemetery supported the high diversity of origins of people buried there (local populations, slaves from Central and East Africa, Madagascar, India and Indonesia). The objective of this study is to provide additional data on the diverse biological origins of the people of historic Cobern Street, using multivariate craniometrics and a very large comparative sample of potentially ancestral populations. Factor and discriminant analyses are performed using up to 16 standard variables related to the vault, face and cranial base. Preliminary results (distance measures, posterior probabilities) showed very high levels of diversity in this population sample, supporting the hypothesis of the presence of high levels of gene flow not only of African origin but also from both Asia andEurope. These morphometric data agree with recent genetic data showing extreme diversity in present-day Cape Town populations, especially those living groups who are considered to be Cobern Street descendants.

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