DNA Analysis Told About The Origin And Ways Of Getting African Slaves To The New World
A detailed study of the genetic history of the slave trade confirmed the West African origin of modern African Americans, and also allowed scientists to learn the ways of importing slaves to different areas of the New World. The findings of the geneticists who conducted this study are available in the American Journal of Human Genetics.
"We analyzed the genomes of more than 50 thousand people who live on both sides of the Atlantic and compared the data with historical information about the slave trade. Their comparison showed how much this vicious practice has affected the genetic diversity and gene pool of modern dark-skinned inhabitants of the New World, " said one of the authors of the work, population geneticist from the company 23andMe Steven Micheletti.
Historians believe that the transatlantic slave trade, which brought more than 12 million slaves from Africa to various countries of the New World, began in 1518. Then the Spanish king Charles V issued a decree that allowed the Viceroy of New Spain to use slaves from Africa to work in the silver and goldfields and plantations.
Subsequently, almost all European colonies and independent States that appeared in the New World later became involved in the "Intercontinental" slave trade. This ended only in the mid-nineteenth century after slaves were banned from Brazil, and thanks to the coordinated efforts of France and Britain, whose ships systematically sank the ships of slavers who were exporting black slaves from the Western coast of Africa.
In their study, Micheletti and his colleagues studied the genomes of descendants of these slaves who live in both the New World and West Africa, including Senegal, Nigeria, the Congo, Angola, and Sierra Leone. This is where the slave traders ' trading posts and slave markets were supposedly located. Thanks to this work, scientists have learned the fate of millions of slaves who were exported from Africa over the centuries.
Genetic history of the slave trade
The analysis showed that the historical Chronicles describing the possible birthplace of slaves who came to the New World between 1600 and 1900 were generally true. In particular, descendants of Brazilian slaves are indeed genetically related to people from the Congo basin, including Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while African-Americans were related to people from Nigeria, Benin, and Sierra Leone.
This analysis also revealed several unexpected or simply interesting historical facts that contradict the generally accepted ideas about how the slave trade was conducted. In particular, scientists did not find a significant preponderance in the "male" part of the genome that modern African-Americans inherited from their slave ancestors.
As the researchers explain, this contradicts the idea that slavers preferred to export and sell only young men who were fit to work on plantations or in mines. According to Micheletti and his colleagues, this discrepancy can be explained by the fact that slave owners could force female slaves to produce as many children as possible for their subsequent exploitation and sale.
Besides, in the DNA of modern black residents of the United States, scientists have not found significant traces of immigrants from Senegal and the Gambia, even though these territories, according to Chronicles and ship logs of slavers, served as the primary source of slaves for North American markets. According to geneticists, the absence of their traces is since such slaves were exploited mainly in rice fields, where they died very quickly from malaria.
Scientists hope that all this information will help modern descendants of black slaves better understand the history of their ancestors, as well as help historians better understand how the appearance of so many people from Africa affected the culture, traditions, and genetics of various regions of the New World.