The skeletons, however, have yet to provide much evidence of violent, physical conflict. One clear case, however, is Burial #25 (see cover photo). This is the burial of a small (5ft.,in./156cm.), twenty-two-year-old woman with a delicate face who was found with a musket ball near her ribs during excavation. Comparisons were made with musket wounds at the United States Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. The Project's assessment is that she had been shot in the back, with the projectile having entered through her left scapula. The backs of her ribs are fractured as though by the rambling projectile. Burial #25 has multiple blunt force fractures of her lower face. She has a diagonal fracture of her lower right arm which occurred while the arm was being twisted. None of the fractures had healed and were doubtlessly related to the cause of her death. There is much that we will never know about her traumatic story, but the story that can be pieced together is one of resistance to a person or persons with access to firearms.
     Perhaps the most telling evidence of resistance thus far involves the preservation of culture. European and Euro-American attempts to denude the people they enslaved of their unique culture was systematic. Original names, languages, religion, ritual, and social organization were abolished either by custom or legislation. Indeed, in New York the integrity of the African-American family unit was worth less to slave-holders than the sale price of any one family member. Yet, in the strictest scientific terms, anthropologists recognize that to have culture is to be human. And the Africans who were enslaved in New York continued to assert their cultures through burial ritual and symbols despite English ordinances against their use. Obviously, the constraints upon cultural expression had its effects. We know that European religious observances, such as the Pinkster Day celebration during which Africans were relieved of work in order to participate, and which might have suggested a cultural conversion, were transformed by traditional African elements, most obviously those of dance, drumming, and costume. We continue to explore the possible ways in which those American progenitors adapted to survive by affecting European and Euro-American expectations of them with one hand, while transforming those of cultural expressions into more traditional and rebellious meanings that only they could fully understand and use with the other hand. At such a nexus we find the spark of creativity, transformative culture, and the struggle for self determination under adverse conditions. Perhaps this process is behind much of what has evolved as African-American culture today -- a culture of art, science, music, civil rights advocacy, and sports that has spread around the globe.


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August 2000