Major find shows cruel life – and death – of slaves

As Professor Mark Horton tells me as he opens the lids, these boxes represent almost the entire sum of the physical relics of the Middle Passage.

These personal possessions had been lovingly clung to by the terrified Africans after their capture, after being transferred into the hands of ruthless slave traders, and even after being squashed into the barely imaginable claustrophobic squalor of an Atlantic-bound slaver ship.

But the team of archaeologists from Bristol University, led by Dr Andrew Pearson and Professor Mark Horton, spent four months excavating a unique slave cemetery on the island of St Helena – a lonely outpost off the African coast in the south Atlantic.

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