Attempt to find DNA samples in last US slave ship | national geography

Divers assumed the visibility would be less than four inches in the muddy water, but unusually favorable conditions turned out to be around a foot. ‘We were capable of that Clotilda see for yourself, ”says Delgado, pointing to his eyes. “These are definitely the best conditions we’ve had on the wreck so far.”

Yet this work mostly requires some form of “Braille diving,” says Kamau Sidiki of Diving With A Purpose, a diving club that trains predominantly black divers in locating and preserving historical and cultural artifacts.

Archaeologists must also relate to modern encroachments on the heritage from Clotilda† At some point in the twentieth century – before the wreck was identified by scientists – the ship must have been partially blasted dynamite into the air by a person who knew where the wreck was. (Earlier it has been reported that a great-grandson of Timothy Meaher once escaped that he and his father had blown the wreck into the air with dynamite).

Due to the sensitivity and importance of the place the wreck is off Clotilda now monitored 24 hours a day to prevent further encroachment or looting.

To get a better picture of the shipwreck, the researchers made a 3D reconstruction of the ship and the surrounding area using high-quality sonar and LiDAR scans. The recordings show that Clotilda Despite Foster’s and others’ efforts to destroy it, it has been remarkably well preserved, including the cramped chamber in which the slaves were kept, which measured no more than seven feet in length and two feet in height. “The front team survived the fire,” Delgado said. “It is clear what it was for. This is proof of what happened. ‘

Future research

Before Clotilda identified in 2019, evidence of the ship’s background was largely based on stories of the African slaves passed down from generation to generation. When the slaves off Clotilda five years later, during the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution, some of the kidnapped Africans founded a small settlement north of Mobile, which soon became known as “Africatown”. Many of the descendants of these slaves still live in Africatown today, and they hope that the ongoing research in Clotilda will give the stories of their ancestors a scientific basis – they believe an important step towards truth and reconciliation.

“The most important thing we want is the legacy of the 110 people on board Clotilda preserved so that their legacy will never be lost, “said Darron Patterson, president of the Clotilda Descendants Association.

The journey of Clotilda

Even if human DNA was found, forensic experts say only limited conclusions can be drawn from it. They do not expect to find nuclear DNA to identify individuals with, but only mitochondrial DNA, which can only identify broader lineages and regions of origin.

“We need much less cell tissue to find mitochondrial DNA than if we were looking for nuclear DNA,” says West. Small amounts of mitochondrial DNA can provide groundbreaking results, both in terms of the story the DNA itself can tell and the framework in which it is found. “I can not think of any other vessel that would allow us to conduct this kind of research, “says West.

After completing their analyzes, the researchers will submit their findings and recommendations to the Alabama Historical Commission, which will then, in close consultation with the slaves’ descendants, decide what to do next. Clotilda will happen.

Some want the shipwreck to be erected and displayed at a museum in Africatown. Others argue that the ship – already listed in the National Register of Historic Sites – should remain in its current location and be preserved ‘in situ’. A memorial could then be placed nearby.

‘The debate over it will be accompanied by a lot of passion and emotion,’ Delgado admits. ‘The appearance of the ship in that place cannot be underestimated. The appearance of such a ship in a museum cannot be underestimated. The question is what the best solution is. ‘

In any case, there is hope that a memorial can help revive Africatown, a suburb surrounded by polluting industries and fragmented by highway construction. While Clotilda slowly revealing its secrets, each new milestone will have great significance for a society still struggling with its traumatic origins.

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