Exploring Enslaved African Lifeways: An Isotopic Study of an 18th Century Cemetery (SE600) on St. Eustatius, Caribbean Netherlands
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St. Eustatius (Statia) is a small island in the Dutch Caribbean, with a total surface area of 21 km2. Due to the island’s small size and dry climate, it was generally ignored by colonial powers as a plantation island. First colonized by the Dutch in 1636, Statia would change hands 22 times between the 17th and 19th centuries. The island’s free port made it a cornerstone of trade in the colonial Caribbean. The thriving trade economy on Statia cultivated a social environment set apart from others in the Caribbean with all parties, free and enslaved Africans included, having opportunities to participate in trade.
This thesis presents the results of stable isotope analysis of human remains from the Godet Cemetery (SE600), which is believed to be a cemetery for enslaved Africans associated with the Godet Plantation. This study uses nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon isotopic analyses to examine the diet, health, and residential history of these individuals prior to death. The ultimate goal of this thesis is to determine if the effects of the social environment documented on Statia during the colonial period was evident biologically. Additionally, the data presented in this study are compared to previously published Caribbean isotopic studies. This study finds that the Godet Cemetery individuals had an intermediate diet consisting of both C3 and C4 plants and a considerable quantity of marine proteins. Preliminary interpretation of the residential history suggests that four of these individuals were recent migrants to Statia in the years prior to death.