The Young Woman from Harleigh Knoll
With skeletal remains, the story of Africans in the Chesapeake is slowly unfolding, person by person. Remote-sensing technologies are helping scientists locate forgotten men and women.
Unearthing Untold Stories
Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) can detect underground anomalies. Along with larger human bones such as skulls, femurs, and tibiae, other grave features become visible—metallic coffin hardware, the disturbed soil of grave shafts,and rocks or metal objects in grave fill.
GPR contributed to finding one young African woman, 17 to 19 years old, whose story might have remained untold. She lived at a time when the population of slaves in the Chesapeake was rising. At the tobacco plantation on Maryland’s Eastern Shore where she was found, the remains of whites and blacks are buried side by side. Her skeleton tells of a hard life of physical labor. Back trauma is evident in her vertebrae, along with heavy use of muscles that deeply pitted the bones of her upper body.
This video Shouldering the Load explains how we have discovered what we do know about her and how forensic artists were able to reconstruct her likeness.
Video: Shouldering the Load
In this video, Doug Owsley of the National Museum of Natural History explains what this young woman's remains reveal about life for colonial African Americans at this site. New methods of scientific research allowed the anthropologists to locate the young woman's geographic area of origin in Africa to bring her to life through the many steps of reconstruction. Video courtesy of the History Channel.
The cause of her death remains a mystery, but — through the technology of facial reconstruction — she now can return our gaze.