We think that heavy lifting is a most likely cause of such extreme muscle strain, because all of the aforementioned muscles are used to lift heavy objects to be carried on the head. The extreme arthritic changes often found in the bones of the neck are also consistent with this historically verifiable, African load-bearing technique. What is more, we often see fractures of the spine, including healed fractures of the first bone of the neck, that result from traumatic loads or force to the top of the head. There are also at least six cases of ring-shaped fractures of the base of the skull, resulting from collision between the spine and the base of the skull, causing death. If this trauma was not deliberately induced, it serves as evidence of being worked to death. Axial loading (bearing loads on the head) is a very efficient technique, but may have been abused.
     It is often said that a society can be judged by the treatment of its most vulnerable members. In this respect, one example from the African Burial Ground is suggestive. The individual known as Burial #39 is a six year-old child. We do not know whether #39 was a girl or boy. This child has dental developmental defects showing that he/she was ill at birth, implying maternal ill health as well. The orbits of the eyes show pitting, characteristics of active anemia at the time of death. There are lesions in the outer layers of bone caused by generalized infection. The growth areas (sutures) of the skull have closed extraordinarily early in development; we are not certain whether this resulted from load-bearing or brain growth retardation due to malnutrition. Burial #39 has lesions at the arm attachments where the brachialis muscles strained, and muscle attachment in the arms are enlarged. The first and second cervical vertebrae (neck bones) are partially fused due to force or heavy load trauma to the top of the head. The only artifacts associated with this burial are the shroud pin stains evincing the care with which the child was interred by members of his or her community.

     Resistance to enslavement has varied manifestations. Resistance to slavery, if you will permit me, may demonstrate the assertion of humanity against attempts to define a person as a domesticated animal or object called "slave." Resistance is evidence of the abuse of one's humanity. The establishment and defense of the cemetery, as mentioned earlier, has constituted such an assertion of humanity from the seventeenth century up to the present moment. Yet, at the origins of the United States, the African Burial Ground was denied to Blacks and built over. I have also discussed the armed rebellion of 1712 as historical evidence of slavery's incompatibility with the human aspiration of the Africans of New York.


<back to previous page


continued on next page>


cologo3.gif (6014 bytes)

August 2000