Previous research at Newton mainly focused on the slaves’ nutrition and physical quality of life. But their origin was still a mystery – how many of them had been born in Africa as opposed to Barbados? And where in Africa had they come from?
Schroeder and his team collected bone and tooth samples from the skeletons of 25 individuals, hoping to find clues in their isotopic composition. Not every atom of an element is the same: some are heavier than others and the proportion between different atom types, or isotopes, gives information about diet and environmental conditions.