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Evergreen
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Who Went With Columbus? Dental Studies Give Clues

Who Went With Columbus? Dental Studies Give Clues.

By Kari Lydersen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 18, 2009

The first planned colonial town in the New World was founded in 1494, when about 1,200 of Christopher Columbus's crew members from the 17 ships that made up his second journey to the Americas settled on the north coast of what is now the Dominican Republic .

Beset by mutiny, mismanagement, hurricanes and disease, the settlement of La Isabela lasted only a few years. The ruins remained largely intact until the 1950s, when a local official reportedly misunderstood the order from dictator Rafael Trujillo to clean up the site in preparation for visiting dignitaries, and had them mostly bulldozed into the sea. Little remained but the skeletons below ground in the church cemetery, which lay undisturbed until excavations began in 1983.

In the past few years, sophisticated chemical studies of the skeletons, especially their teeth, have begun to yield new insights into the lives and origins of Columbus's crew. The studies hint that, among other things, crew members may have included free black Africans who arrived in the New World about a decade before the slave trade began.

La Isabela was not the first settlement established by Columbus. When the Santa Maria ran aground off Hispaniola on Christmas Eve, 1492, during his first voyage, the 39 stranded sailors built a fort they christened La Navidad. When Columbus returned the next year, the fort had been burned and the crew massacred.

The study of the La Isabela skeletons grew out of a project in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, where in 2000 researchers were surprised to find the remains of West Africans among those buried in a mid-16th-century church cemetery in Campeche. Vera Tiesler and Andrea Cucina from the Autonomous University of Yucatan invited T. Douglas Price, director of the Laboratory for Archaeological Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, to do isotopic analysis of those skeletons' teeth.

Isotopes are different forms of an element, atoms with different molecular weights based on their varying numbers of neutrons. Depending on their diet and water supply, humans concentrate specific isotopes in varying ratios in the enamel of their teeth while young, and those ratios remain largely unchanged throughout life.

For example, the ratio of strontium isotopes indicates whether the person grew up in a region underlain by very old bedrock, such as West Africa, or newer rock, such as Latin America. That is because older rock has a higher ratio of strontium 87 to strontium 86.

Ratios of carbon isotopes in the teeth, meanwhile, reflect what foods a person ate. A diet heavy in corn, sorghum and other tropical plants yields more carbon 13, whereas grains such as barley and wheat produce more carbon 12. Europeans of Columbus's time would have relatively little carbon 13 in their teeth; Mexicans would have much of the heavier isotope. Natives of Hispaniola and many Africans, who are believed to have eaten a mixed diet, would probably fall somewhere in between.

"Mexicans are about as heavy [on carbon 13] as you can get," said James Burton, a geochemist at the University of Wisconsin involved in the La Isabela and Campeche projects. "Africans are in between, Europeans at the other end. If people in Hispaniola had a mixed diet, manioc along with corn, that makes them hard to tell in carbon from Africans."

Scientists are also analyzing the oxygen composition of the teeth.

Oxygen isotopes in water differ according to a region's climate, with warmer climates yielding water with more "heavy oxygen" (oxygen 18) and cooler areas having "lighter oxygen" (oxygen 16). That's because it essentially takes more energy (heat) to evaporate water with heavier oxygen isotopes from the ocean into the atmosphere. At higher latitudes, higher elevations and increasing distance from the ocean, water has relatively less heavy oxygen.

Based on such analyses, scientists are certain that a number of people found in the Campeche cemetery were African. It looks highly possible they have found at least three Africans in La Isabela as well, although Burton warns against jumping to conclusions.

"They look a little like Africans, but we can't say for sure they're not Spanish yet because we don't have a full range of understanding what is the cut-off in isotopic ranges for people from Spain and for local people," he said. For comparison, the team is analyzing bones, nails and, when possible, teeth from Spain and Hispaniola.

DNA analysis is also being done on the skeletons. But after excavation and years of storage and research, the samples could be heavily contaminated with DNA from other sources.

By cross-referencing their skeletal findings with ships' logs, the scientists ultimately hope to determine the region of Spain individual crew members came from.

The researchers note that bones, teeth and DNA yield no clues as to whether someone was a slave or not. Columbus was known to travel with a slave, but it is also possible that the crews included free Africans picked up in the Canary Islands or African migrants to Spain.

"The people on that expedition were reasonably well known by Spanish historians; there were [African] servants of households, but they didn't bring African slaves," said Kathleen A. Deagan, a University of Florida historical archaeologist and author of two books on La Isabela. "There were African sailors on those early expeditions, foot soldiers -- that kind of thing."

Richard Lee Turits, director of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program at the University of Michigan, said historians have long figured there were Africans in the New World before 1500 but have little hard evidence.

"This presence is not surprising, given the substantial number of enslaved and free people of African descent in Spain and Portugal in the late 1400s," he said. "Though not surprising, the Isabela findings represent important new evidence that could give us new details about the earliest individuals of African descent in the Americas."

The La Isabela skeletons were buried in egalitarian fashion in keeping with Christian tradition -- their hands extended toward the church. Taino people indigenous to the area were also buried there, including a woman and an infant, who Tiesler said could be the island's first mestizo (born of indigenous and Spanish parents). There may have also been an African woman.

"Americans envision drawings of Columbus jumping out in the New World with this stigma of domination and exploitation," Burton said. "But that version could be affected if you have the white male stepping out to dominate the New World, and you have an African woman stepping out with him."

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The Explorer
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quote:

The study of the La Isabela skeletons grew out of a project in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, where in 2000 researchers were surprised to find the remains of West Africans among those buried in a mid-16th-century church cemetery in Campeche.

A matter that came up here a while back, along with the issue of whether these were remains of free-persons or otherwise.


quote:


"Americans envision drawings of Columbus jumping out in the New World with this stigma of domination and exploitation," Burton said. "But that version could be affected if you have the white male stepping out to dominate the New World, and you have an African woman stepping out with him."

Why...because of accompaniment by an African woman? LOL.
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mrth
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Perhaps said woman might add 'diverse perspectives'...


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The Explorer
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I'm not in the author's head, but that bit about the prospect of an African woman accompanying columbus "affecting" the "stigma of domination and exploitation" with which Americans view "drawings of Columbus jumping out in the New World", gives the impression that the author is of the mindset that "stigma of domination and exploitation" could very well no longer just have a "white face" to it. Of course, should that be the case, it would just be nonsense.

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Your best defense is FACTS!

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Mike111
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One major problem with these "Studies" is that the racist use the guise of science and "Research" to further embed the racist lie that Blacks are not indegunous to the Americas. Note the quote: "2000 researchers were surprised to find the remains of West Africans among those buried in a mid-16th-century church cemetery in Campeche."

This statement was made with the full knowledge that it is a scientific certainty that the first settlers of the Americas were Black people (called Australoids), and the second wave of settlers were Black people called Polynesians.

How then, could any logical and honest scientist be "Surprised" to find the remains of the "first settlers of the Americas" i.e. Black People - in ANY ancient graveyard ANYWHERE in the Americas? The answer is that a "logical and honest scientist" could not!

I used the term "Called" because I can't see any difference in appearance between the original Blacks of the Americas and the current Blacks of the Americas.



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And since it is extremely evident by the artifacts, that Blacks were a large part of even the non-Black civilizations (such as the Maya and Aztec), then these "fits of forgetfulness" that these "Researchers" (and I use the term advisedly) seem to experience, can only be attributed to "Rabid Racism".


As to "Christopher Columbus" - His voyage to America was not financed by Queen Isabella, but rather by Luis de Santangelo, who advanced the sum of 17,000 ducats to finance the voyage. Columbus was accompanied by five 'maranos' (Jews who had foresworn their religion and supposedly became Catholics) Luis de Torres - interpreter, Marco - the surgeon, Bemal - the physician, Alonzo de la Calle and Gabriel Sanchez, and A black navigator, Pedro Alonso Niño. While in the Americas, it was Gabriel Sanchez, who convinced Columbus to capture 500 American Indians and sell them as slaves in Seville, Spain.

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Brada-Anansi
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While I do not dought that Africans travelled as freemen and woman? as part of columbus's crew,that and the later slave trade often obscured earlier visits by Africans at an earlier era.Now compound that with Blacks who were amongst the first to set foot in the New World.

Blacks—from somewhere—did apparently precede the Spanish to the mainland New World. At least Spanish explorers spoke of them. The reports mention groups of African blacks isolated or living with native Indians, perhaps the fragments of former colonies or the survivors of shipwrecks. (19)

Peter Martyr, a historian and contemporary of Columbus, notes that Spanish explorers found “Negro slaves” in Darien, present Panama, who were fierce and cruel. (20)) “It is thought,” the chronicler observed, “that Negro pirates of Ethiopia established themselves after the wreck of their ships in these mountains.”

These Africans, for that is what Martyr means by his use of “Ethiopia,” were captives of local Indians (not slaves in a later sense, but captives in war) and had apparently come from a nearby colony. They were there before 1513 when Balboa found them. (21)

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Mike111
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That is a very interesting quote Brada-Anansi;

Peter Martyr, a historian and contemporary of Columbus, notes that Spanish explorers found “Negro slaves” in Darien, present Panama, who were fierce and cruel. (20)) “It is thought,” the chronicler observed, “that Negro pirates of Ethiopia established themselves after the wreck of their ships in these mountains.”

It seems to embody so much of what the racist try to do. For instance; if they were "Slaves" how could he possibly know that they were "fierce and cruel"? As far as I know, slaves are unarmed and don't get to fight anyone, or do anything to anyone.

But it does hold with the convention of White people; that is, to call all Blacks in all places that Whites don't like to see them - slaves. It seems that the presence of these Black people, fuchs up the pioneering Whites stories, that Whites like to tell.

Another thing, is that as far as I know, Pirates roam shipping lanes looking for ships to plunder. Is he saying that there was a large amount of America to Africa shipping traffic? At that time, there was certainly not a large volume of shipping traffic between Europe and the Americas - just the odd Spanish or Portuguese ship - certainly nothing that would draw Pirates from Africa. Bottom line, White people lie so much, that there is no telling what they are hiding.

But ya, the Niggas in that part of the Americas, do seem to have been kinda mean.


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Brada-Anansi
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Well for a more extensive quote.you or me or someone will have to digup Van-Sertimas book African Presence In America. It explains futher that the Blacks were carrying out wars of aggression and Defence against the natives,and that they made slaves of the native people in that area when they captured them,such was the fortunes of wars back then. them being pirates could stem from the fact that blacks were preying on shipping on the medt.or it could be Abubakri's folks who were just defending territory on land and sea . Who knows but the Ishmus of Panama need some secirous field work.
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Mike111
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Brada-Anansi - I usually don't read Black history books - just raw materials - often I found such books to be a bit fanciful in certain areas. But I think that I may make an exception in this case.

BTW - those personal accounts and journals of the first Whites are invaluable in piecing together a true history. As you have seen, when Whites get a chance to parse and edit their content, the result is their racist and bullsh1t version of history.

I hope you are reading and saving every one of them that you run across. As an example; it is only from such Roman journals that we know the extent of the Black Gauls territory in Europe. Do you think that any White textbook would provide such information?

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Brada-Anansi
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Mike I have been trying to tell you for atleast a couple o months now that there are excellent works by Black scholors,who wrote books,books that some White scholors lean on and make reference to.Most of the people I read are not hacks,the only way to do better is to go to Spain study middle age Spanish ask the Grand Liberary to lone you the original Peter Martyr's notes,logs,books and make your own transilations.
Now that's a tall order for anyone who does not do historical field work for a living.

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.Charlie Bass.
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bump
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Clyde Winters
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quote:
Originally posted by Brada-Anansi:
Mike I have been trying to tell you for atleast a couple o months now that there are excellent works by Black scholors,who wrote books,books that some White scholors lean on and make reference to.Most of the people I read are not hacks,the only way to do better is to go to Spain study middle age Spanish ask the Grand Liberary to lone you the original Peter Martyr's notes,logs,books and make your own transilations.
Now that's a tall order for anyone who does not do historical field work for a living.

Except for Snowden I have never seen Europeans quote an Afro-American researcher. I would love to know what European scholars have quoted Diop, DuBois, John Jackson and J.A. Rogers.

You are right about doing original research. To do my research I had to learn: Arabic, Chinese, Tamil,Spanish,Swahili and many other languages to do my research so I could read the original documents.

But I can tell you most Librarise and the basements of museums are off-limits to Blacks who are not affiliated with major rsearch centers.

These Blacks because they don't believe Black people have a history beyond slavery,are safe, since they will do nothing to 'rock the boat', thats why you don't see any professional Afro anthropologist, except Keita, writing ancient history. The other Afro antropologist are excavating slave plantations, if they do any excavation at all. And even Keita is going to mainly discusss haplogroup E, and maintain the status quo when discussing haplogroups M and R.

This is why Mike is right you can't expect most Europeans to tell the truth about ancient Black History. Take for example the Olmecs. Every archaeologist knows that the Olmec statues produced in the Olmec heartland before 900 BC, depict negroes or Africans, yet researchers publish Colonial Olmec artifacts, depicting non-Olmecs and claim they represent the Olmecs.

It is also the reason why most Afros lacking training in foriegn languages can contribute nothing to Afrocentric study unless it is done by Europeans.

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Grumman
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''But I can tell you most Librarise and the basements of museums are off-limits to Blacks who are not affiliated with major rsearch centers.''

Considering the historicity of white folks I know your comment is accurate. [Wink]

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Whatbox
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quote:
"Americans envision drawings of Columbus jumping out in the New World with this stigma of domination and exploitation," Burton said. "But that version could be affected if you have the white male stepping out to dominate the New World, and you have an African woman stepping out with him."
Yeah, that image (the boldened) is pretty white often enough (predominantly), lol.
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