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Colonial-era slave cemetery revealed in the Lesser Antilles

The Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives (INRAP) report that a rescue dig has revealed a colonial era slave cemetery at Saint-François loated on south coast of Grande-Terre island in the Lesser Antilles.

Colonial-era slave cemetery revealed in the Lesser Antilles
Archaeological dig in Saint-François [Credit: © Jérôme Rouquet, Inrap]
The cemetery, threatened by severe coastal erosion, has been known for several years due to the regular occurrence of human bones and coffin nails.

In the 1990s, the discovery of a skull associated with a slave collar indicated the presence of a slave cemetery.

Surveys conducted in 2013 helped uncover 48 individual burials, many with with indications of wooden coffins

Colonial-era slave cemetery revealed in the Lesser Antilles
The deceased were buried in wooden coffins [Credit:: © Jérôme Rouquet, Inrap]
The deceased were all lying on their backs, along an east-west axis to the shoreline, their heads mostly at the west end.

The presence of bone buttons shows that they were dressed for burial.

One of the deceased showed cut incisors which, based on comparisons with similar discoveries at the slave cemetery of  Anse Sainte-Marguerite (Grande-Terre), suggest that the individual was born in Africa.

Colonial-era slave cemetery revealed in the Lesser Antilles
Evidence suggests the cemetery was used for/by African slaves [Credit:: © Jérôme Rouquet, Inrap]
The population consists of adults and children of both sexes.

Overlapping burials indicate that the cemetery was used over a relatively long period of time, probably more than a century.

The timeline remains unclear, but the evidence collected thus far suggest that the cemetery was used from the late seventeenth to nineteenth century.

Between 500 and 1,000 graves are still in place.

The cemetery will be thoroughly excavated and studied, along with any historical sources.

Source: INRAP [February 11, 2014]

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