Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Theodore G. Schurr


The interactions and relationships between European and African persons in colonial North America are often difficult to reconstruct due to the legacies of inequality and enslavement. This dissertation project analyzes the genomes of colonial-era individuals to explore geographical ancestry and biological kinship at the Avery’s Rest archaeological site (17th century, Delaware) and the Anson Street African Burial Ground (18th Century, South Carolina), providing contrasting perspectives on European and African descendent population histories in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic and South. This research also employed a community-engagement strategy, whereby community outreach was conducted with both the Chesapeake and Anson Street African Burial Ground (ASABG) projects using different approaches. The mitochondrial DNAs and whole genomes were successfully extracted and sequenced from 43 archaeological individuals at the University of Tennessee Ancient DNA Laboratory. The resulting data were compared to those from contemporary populations to characterize geographical ancestry using principal component analysis, ADMIXTURE, and F-statistics. In addition, biological kinship was estimated using uni-parentally inherited mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal haplogroups and bi-parentally inherited autosomal markers, with R0, R1, and KING coefficient statistics. These data were contextualized with archival and bio-archaeological evidence to describe the lifeways and lived experiences of these interred individuals. The results indicate that the archaeological individuals had European, African, and/or Native American ancestry, and revealed insights into the African diaspora, European settlement, and admixture between marginalized communities in the colonial period. The analysis of biological kinship further informed site occupation and use, identifying family-based settlement patterns for the European individuals at Avery’s Rest and diverse ancestries within enslaved African-descendent individuals at both the Avery’s Rest and the ASABG sites. The interpretation of this genomic evidence within an osteobiographical theoretical framework facilitates its integration with other archaeological studies to provide more specific interpretation of individual lived experience. Moreover, this research presents a method for how community-engaged ancient DNA research can be ethically conducted. In summary, this dissertation demonstrates how ancient DNA methods can be used within a multi-method framework to produce detailed interpretations of colonial histories in the bio-archaeological record.


Available to all on Friday, August 09, 2024

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