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A European Initial Training Network on the History, Archaeology, and New Genetics of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

Final Report Summary - EUROTAST (A European Initial Training Network on the History, Archaeology, and New Genetics of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade)

The “EUROTAST” ITN ( supported a new generation of science and humanities researchers to uncover and interpret new evidence on the history and contemporary legacies of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (TAST). The network provided a unique opportunity to work collaboratively across disciplines to provide new perspectives on this history, by bringing together experienced and early-stage researchers from different disciplines, including archaeology, history, social anthropology and population genetics. Between 2011 and 2015, the network supported 13 ESRs ( and two ERs. The ESR’s research projects ( focused on three main themes, including “Origins and Ancestral Ties”, “Life Cycles”, and “Legacies and Representations”. The two ERs were hired to specifically deal with dissemination and public engagement aspects of the project.

Spanning four years and three continents, EUROTAST’s research and training activities featured a large number of training workshops ( symposia and conferences ( that focused on both discipline specific topics as well as more general skills training. Through a unique combination of project specific and more general skills training (e.g. media training) we ensured that the fellows received a comprehensive training package that produced 15 highly skilled ESRs and ERs, who are either already contributing to, or are poised to contribute to, the European research environment. The network’s activities were supported by eight Associate Partners ( from the education, heritage, and private sector, including the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool ( .

Throughout the network's lifespan, we have undertaken measures to ensure that the network was coordinated as a single entity. Specifically, the network had a strong core management team represented by several key PIs, both ERs, and two dedicated additional administrative staff in Copenhagen focusing on the logistical and financial administration, respectively. Thanks to this structure, plus the tight pre-existing network of the PIs, EUROTAST has succeeded in generating a very close community spirit binding the ESRs and ERs. In addition to the strong management, we identify a number of other key causes for this cohesion. Firstly, from the start we structured the network’s activities in a way that would bring all the fellows together at regular timepoints for multi-day training events – events that not only enriched their skill sets but also provided them with ample opportunity to build up their interpersonal relationships.

In order to ensure that all fellows benefitted from the full training program the 13 ESRs and first ER were hired so as to commence within a few months of each other, and in doing so, proceed in their training as a single cohort. Given the importance of this training at both the personal development level, and the need to ensure that these 14 initially hired fellows, who are drawn from an extremely wide academic and geographic background, were provided a sound foundation in the known history of the TAST, we implemented a strategy where the majority of the training was focused within the first 12-15 months of the Fellows time in the network. Personal skills acquired in this first period included those related to communication, media, management of both PhD projects and research projects in general, as well as a wide range of career development and job search skills.

At the academic level, their training in the first period was provided as a mixture of closed (intra-network) workshops (including an archaeology field school on St Eustatius) coupled to four international symposia. With coordination and funding provided by the network, each of these symposia featured internationally renowned guest speakers from both Europe, the Americas/Caribbean and Africa, as well as local non-network participants, and thus acted as a key tool to both broaden the horizons of the fellows, hear about the latest in research and societal perspectives of the topics, and provide important networking opportunities.

While most of the network's activities were carried out during the first half of the project (leaving the fellows enough time to focus on their PhD research during the second half), three additional events were held in 2014/15. As outlined in our original proposal, the first two of these events involved a two-week visit to both Ghana and Senegal. Arranged in collaboration with our associate partners Kodzo Gavua (University of Ghana) and Ibrahima Thiaw (University of Cheick Anta Diop) the visit achieved several goals. Firstly, the fellows obtained valuable insights into the legacy of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade in Africa, through both visits to key sites (e.g. Elmina), as well as discussion with local scholars and students. Secondly, the fellows obtained practical skills in dissemination of this sensitive topic, at both the school and university level, through hosting a symposium that showcased research conducted by members of the EUROTAST network and, importantly, by West African colleagues, as well as workshop that was aimed at local educators.

The final event in the network's calendar was held in April 2015 at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool. Scheduled over two days, this offered both a chance for all the fellows to present the findings of their research so far to academic peers and to hear research from a number of invited speakers. In addition, the event provided excellent networking opportunities for fellows.

We highlight that all three of these second period events are directly in line with the strategy implemented from the very beginning of the network’s life – that is to focus on outreach, a topic which is of particular relevance given the prominent role that the TAST played in the history of modern Europe, Africa and the Americas/Caribbean. Throughout the network’s lifespan therefore, we both released a network web page ( shortly after the commencement of the project, and were active in keeping it up to date thanks to the efforts of our ER1, Dr Temi Odumosu, and in period 2, our ER2, Dr Colleen Morgan. In addition to reporting on network progress, this has served as a portal for disseminating information about the planned events that are open to non-network members, as well as contains other content relating to the symposia we have held so far, and increasingly towards the end of the network, dedicated media produced by ER2 (e.g. video interviews with the fellows).

In addition, the fellows have performed outreach at the local level by providing critical feedback on the design of museum exhibits (e.g. at the new Maritime Museum of Denmark in Helsingør), by training school teachers and other educators on the topic (e.g. Teacher Training Day at the Natural History Museum of Denmark), and generally raising awareness regarding the history of the TAST through public lectures (e.g. European Researchers' Night), academic presentations, posters and media releases dealing with the network as well as single research papers.

With regards to research outcomes, at the time of network completion, the fellows report attendance at a large number of non-network conferences and symposia, as well as the preparation or publication of 49 academic articles. Major research highlights so far include (i) first proof that genomic data can be used to trace the genetic origins of enslaved Africans (a finding that was chosen among the Top Ten Discoveries of 2015 by the American Institute of Archaeology), (ii) development and release of a new bioinformatics package called 'mapdamage 2.0' aimed at generating reliable sequence data from ancient remains, (iii) first demonstration that genomic and proteomic data from dental calculus sampled from human remains can yield unprecedented insights into the health and diet of enslaved Africans, and (iv) the formation of a consortium that is typing SNPs of several hundred new West African samples, thus adding to the public database on genetic variation.

Naturally, as the fellows complete their PhD research and publish their findings, we expect these outcomes to increase, but even without these final papers we are very proud of our ESR and ER achievements.

Contact details and Principal Investigators:

P1 University of Copenhagen - Prof Tom Gilbert ( Dr Hannes Schroeder ( Dr Ludovic Orlando (
P2 CNRS - Prof Myriam Cottias (
P3 University of Toulouse 3 - Prof Jean-Michel Dugoujon (
P4 deCODE - Dr Agnar Helgasson (
P5 University of Leiden - Dr Jay Haviser (
P6 IPATIMUP University of Porto - Dr Luisa Pereira (
P7 University of Santiago de Compostela - Prof Antonio Salas (
P8 University of Bristol - Prof Kate Robson-Brown (
P9 University of Hull - Prof David Richardson (
P10 University of York - Prof Matthew Collins ( Dr Jon Finch (