The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)


A World Apart: Dental Variation and the New York African Burial Ground

ARION T. MAYES1, LESLEY RANKIN-HILL2 and MICHAEL BLAKEY3.

1Anthropology, San Diego State University, 2Anthropology, University of Oklahoma, 3Anthropology, William and Mary

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Origins are central to understanding the past and present identity of a people. Origin studies provide, under optimal conditions, context for all other assessments, such as archaeological, biomedical, and nutritional evaluations. Determining the origins of the New York African population and those individuals interred in the African Burial Ground was one of the project’s primary themes. A template based on historical and archaeological data supported the skeletal biological lines of evidence including dental morphology. Such information helps to elucidate the origin of enslaved Africans to the Americas.

Recognizing world population variation, the dental morphology was used to identify whether they are of predominantly African or non-African origin and, if they are African, which regions of the continent they share ancestral affinities with. Furthermore, existing variation will allow us to characterize these individuals in relation to themselves and to address questions of kinship within the group.

Recent comparisons confirm the African regional backgrounds of those interred in the cemetery and probe the current limits for establishing greater ethnic specificity using such traditional methodology and comparative statistics. This investigation is an integral part of the overall research paradigm and contributes to a baseline in population variation from which all other discussions can take place.

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