Analysis of Grave Soil Samples found in the New York African Burial Ground

Keely Clinton 1,2

  1. W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory, Howard University
  2. Department of Biology, Howard University
The New York African Burial Ground is the location of the greatest number of free and enslaved African burials in a common place during the 17th and 18th centuries. It is speculated that the burial ground was more than likely established by Negro frontier residents initially being called the “Negroes Burial Ground”. The burial ground was specifically found on a lot in lower Manhattan (Block 154) surrounded by Broadway to the west, Duane St. to the north, Reade St. to the south and Elm St. to the east, with important landmarks such as Crolius pottery to the northeast and Collect Pond to the east, as early maps indicate. Location must be taken into account as it determines the composition and condition of the grave soil samples. In this study we are able to observe the origin of each grave sample, their orientation in relation to each other, the depth at which the grave soil was obtained (between 6ft. and 25 ft.) and whether or not there was an individual/ partial remains/ artifacts associated with each sample. We are also able to observe the stratigraphic analysis based on differences in color and type of the soil and archaeological records. Most of the 49 grave samples are derived from the Middle Group of the African Burial Ground. The Middle Group is documented as the collection of burials located throughout the excavated site except north of the fence line during the time the burial ground was extensively used.

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