Archaeologists have identified the origins of some of the first slaves brought to the Americas. Researchers used DNA to confirm their findings.
Archaeologists researching slavery in the Americas have unearthed what may be the graves of the first slaves imported from Africa.
Excavating a site in the Canary Islands, the archaeologists discovered some of the graves contained the DNA of Africans. Specifically, they found four African men in the graves.
Following the Spanish conquest of the Canaries, the local population was exterminated though warfare, disease and enslavement. As the local population disappeared, the Spanish began importing Africans to the islands to work plantations there.
This importation launched the transatlantic slave trade that would continue until the early 19th century.
African slaves proved resistant to disease, which made them hardier than Native slaves who often died from the cocktail of European diseases. Still, African slaves died in large numbers primarily because of their harsh working conditions and the poor diet afforded them.
On average, an African slave working the cane plantations in the Caribbean could expect to last for only about five years.
Although African chattel slavery, the most infamous slavery in history, has come to an end the practice remains common around the globe. Today there are more slaves than ever with an estimated 30 to 45 million people being kept as slaves in one form or another.