New research about Dutch slave trade in Burma

This is a video about the Maluku islands, especially the Banda islands.

Often, people think about the Dutch 17th and 18th century slave trade that only the West Indies Company did that, to Suriname and the Antilles. However, also the Dutch East India Company (VOC) did it.

Recently, the web site of Leiden university published, about new research on this:

The dark side of the VOC mentality

The ‘East India Company mentality’ was held up as a positive example to Dutch people of today by Rightist Prime Minister Balkenende.

The kingdom of Arakan, in the border region between Bangladesh and Burma, was the biggest source of slaves of the VOC. The need for labour at the spice plantations on the Banda islands transformed the slave market from a supply-directed to a demand-directed market.

There was such a big need for (imported slave) labour in the Banda archipelago, as the original inhabitants had been massacred by the VOC for not agreeing to the economic conditions of the VOC in the nutmeg trade.

10 thoughts on “New research about Dutch slave trade in Burma

  1. No research allowed on Prestwich skeletons

    Melanie Gosling

    November 14 2005 at 09:36AM

    The 3 000 human skeletons unearthed during construction works at Prestwich Place in Green Point over two years ago will be reburied as part of a R4-million Prestwich Memorial Park in Somerset Road funded by the Cape Town city council.

    But no one will ever know who these people were, as the authorities have ruled that archaeologists may not carry out any research on the skeletons.

    They are thought to have been buried in the 17th or 18th century, and many are thought to have been slaves.

    By studying the bones, archaeologists could determine the ages and sexes of the people, their levels of nutrition and certain kinds of diseases they had.
    University of Cape Town (UCT) archaeologist Antonia Malan said it would also be possible to determine whether they had done hard labour.

    “Most of these studies require very small amounts of bone. Archaeologists will be allowed to study the cultural material found with the skeletons, but without analysing the bones, there is no systematic way of establishing who they were,” Malan said.

    She said the South African Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra) had made this decision.

    “The regulations are very clear that the skeletons must be kept in separate containers.

    “They are all in boxes now, and take up an enormous volume,” Malan said.

    Although Sahra has ruled that they may not be studied, mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo said in a statement: “Much research is still needed on the history of the people buried in the unmarked graves and the community associated with them.

    “We think they could have been sailors, slaves, servants and indigenous people.”

    Clive James of the city council said on Sunday that public information meetings would be held and the public would be able to object or to comment.

    An ossuary holding the remains would be stone-walled with a concrete roof on which fynbos would be planted.

    It was intended to resemble a big rock, topped with vegetation.

    There will be a pedestrian link between the city centre and the V&A Waterfront.

    “The park is part of an 18th century Dutch cemetery. An archaeologist has done test pits and determined that there are no longer any burials in the park,” James said.

    When the skeletons were uncovered, UCT archaeologists were appointed to exhume them, as required by legislation.

    This led to a public outcry.

    The skeletons are being housed in Woodstock and Somerset hospitals.

    Public information meetings about the memorial park will be held from November 19 at the Athlone Community Centre, the St Andrew’s Church and the Alliance Française in Mitchell’s Plain.

    The closing date for objections is on Friday, December 9.

    This article was originally published on page 6 of Cape Times on November 14, 2005
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    Memorial park planned for Prestwich skeletons
    Myolisi Gophe November 13 2005 at 01:15PM

    The Cape Town city council has proposed a R4-million memorial park to bury centuries-old human skeletons found during excavations for a new building in Prestwich Street in Green Point two years ago.

    Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo said this week that should the community approve, there would be a visitors’ centre and an ossuary in the park on the corner of Somerset Road and Buitengracht.

    The Prestwich Memorial Project would include a landscaped pedestrian link between the city centre and the V&A Waterfront.

    The council, with the South African Heritage Resources Agency, has been instructed by a ministerial tribunal to find an appropriate site for the reburial of the bones thought to have been of poor people who died in the 17th and 18th centuries.
    After the unmarked graves were discovered, construction was halted and the bones were moved to a hospital in Woodstock.

    Mfeketo said the instruction by the tribunal was that the site should be a memorial garden in the Green Point area. The closure of lower Rose Street was part of the plan.

    Mfeketo said the ossuary would serve as a resting place for these remains and those of others likely to be uncovered during future development in the area.

    “Much research is still needed on the history of the people buried in the unmarked graves and the community associated with them. We think they could have been sailors, slaves, servants and indigenous people.”

    Mfeketo said the project was the first phase of a wider plan in which a Place of Memory would be extended along Chiappini, Prestwich, Napier and Ebenezer streets and include Dock Road and the Amsterdam

    Public information meetings are to be held at St Andrew’s Church, the Athlone Community Centre, and the Alliance Francaise in Mitchell’s Plain from Saturday.

    Residents may comment in writing before December 9.

    This article was originally published on page 3 of Sunday Argus on November 13, 2005


  2. Slaves’ bones to be moved
    Staff Writer April 22 2008 at 09:02AM
    The remains of 18th century slaves uncovered during building operations in Prestwich street, Green Point, about four years ago are to have a final resting place when heritage authorities transfer them to a newly built ossuary on Thursday.

    “As one of the few known and identifiable burial places of the time, the site (Prestwich Place) is symbolic of all the others which served the city’s poor, now desecrated and built upon,” said the Prestwich Place Project Committee.

    The remains will be brought to the ossuary at St Andrews Square in a ceremonial reburial on May 2, starting with a procession from the city centre at 10am.
    There will also be an information and discussion session at the District Six Museum at 6.30pm on Tuesday. On Wednesday an interfaith ritual of consecration will take place at the ossuary at 2pm.

    This article was originally published on page 5 of Cape Times on April 22, 2008
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    More skeletons found at Prestwich site
    Babalo Ndenze August 15 2006 at 11:02AM
    The building of a R5,6-million heritage centre to house the centuries-old human remains found in Prestwich Street in Green Point, has led to the discovery of more remains.

    The city advertised on Monday for interested or affected parties to comment following the new discovery.

    During the building work, more skeletal remains were found by construction workers and an archaeologist was called in, as required by law.

    City environmental management chief Clive James said the bones were discovered in the top corner of the site.
    That’s why we put out the notice. But we had an archaeologist monitor the site all the way through.

    “The SA Heritage Resource Agency (Sahra) will decide where they (bones) go. Construction has already started, and will continue till April. There will be a visitor’s centre, and a public square, which is nearly finished.
    “The purpose of the development is the re-interment (burial) of the remains which are coming up all over Green Point,” said James.

    The centre, which will include an ossuary and a memorial garden, is on the site of the former Dutch Reformed Church cemetery, and is bordered by Somerset Road, Buitengracht, Chiappini and Waterkant streets.

    Sahra spokesperson Sulayman Ebrahim said that as the permitting authority, they were happy with the progress of the development.
    # This article was originally published on page 4 of Cape Times on August 15, 2006


  3. Hundreds of 300-year-old Cape graves dug up
    Melanie Gosling July 16 2003 at 01:44AM

    Hundreds of human skeletons, many those of babies, have been unearthed by archaeologists at a building site in Alfred Street in Cape Town in what is believed to be an informal 300-year-old cemetery.

    The archaeologists from the University of Cape Town have dug up 205 complete skeletons, of which about 40 percent are those of babies, and have found another 90 broken skeletons.

    They have been excavating the site for the past month after human remains were uncovered by workers on a construction site where an office and retail complex is to be built.

    Archaeologist Tim Hart said on Tuesday there were likely to be many more skeletons as they had excavated only 20 percent of the site so far. He said the site was not one of the formal cemeteries marked in historical documents.
    “It is most probably a paupers’ burial site and many of the people are likely to have been slaves. It was probably first used in the early 1700s and remained in use for a good 100 years.
    “By 1830 buildings had already been erected on this site,” Hart said.

    About a dozen people are hard at work on the site, some pushing wheelbarrows, others sitting or lying alongside skeletons and carefully scraping away earth with trowels and paint brushes.

    Bits of broken bone protrude from the ground all over the site and in a pile of plastic bags skulls have been carefully wrapped and labelled.

    One of the bags contains the bones of one of the many babies unearthed, its tiny ribs hardly bigger than a chicken’s.

    Another bag contains rusty iron nails, all that remains of a coffin, and in another tiny copper pins used to pin closed a shroud.

    “This was not a mass burial. People have been buried in a variety of styles, from burials with bodies laid out carefully in coffins to others which seem to have been thrown into the grave, with arms and legs bent in the way they landed,” Hart said.

    Two of the coffins appeared to have been lined, as copper tacks with tiny fragments of material attached were found. Glass trade beads have been found, the buckle of a belt and a small clay pot.

    The developer of the site is funding the excavation.

    Hart said he hoped to be able to raise funds to pay for a thorough analysis of all the remains.

    “We would like to have physical anthropologists examine the skeletons and also perhaps do DNA testing.

    “If these people were paupers, their lives were never recorded in the historic literature and the only tangible evidence of their existence is these bones.

    “We can learn a lot about them with thorough analysis, but it will need funding.

    “No one can put a name to any individual we’ve dug up, but they are ancestors of people who live in Cape Town today and are part of the city’s heritage,” Hart said.

    This article was originally published on page 5 of Cape Times on July 16, 2003

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    Discovery of bones halts Waterfront project
    Melanie Gosling October 29 2003 at 09:33AM

    Hundreds of human skeletons have been unearthed at a construction site at the V&A Waterfront, the site of BP’s new head office.

    Construction in the area has been halted while archaeologists from the University of Cape Town (UCT) excavate the human bones.

    The skeletons, being found as random bones, appear to have been dumped together in a trench about 20m long and 1,8m wide, probably after 1865. In some areas they are densely packed about a metre deep.

    Initial observations by archaeologists are that the skeletons were originally buried elsewhere and then removed and dumped in the trench, as there is no evidence of individual graves. Bits of wood, presumably from coffins, and two iron coffin handles have been found among the bones, many of which are broken.

    This is the latest in a series of discoveries of human skeletons on the western side of the city, unearthed during construction to make way for redevelopments.

    Archaeologists believe any earthworks in the area from Gallows Hill to Mouille Point are likely to unearth skeletons. With the exhumation of historical skeletons a highly-charged issue, it poses problems for the proposed redevelopment of the Green Point area.
    Sources say developers are backing off from the area because of the delays caused by finding skeletons on site.

    The development of an office and shopping complex at Prestwich Street has been delayed for five months so far, and the authorities have not yet given the go-ahead either for earthworks to resume, or for exhumation of the skeletons to continue.

    The bones at the Waterfront were uncovered two weeks ago in a corner of the Portswood Ridge West site, owned by the V&A Waterfront Company.

    Waterfront spokesperson Carol Cowan said the excavation was immediately stopped and Dave Halkett of UCT’s archaeology contracts office was contacted.

    Halkett said on Tuesday their staff had been monitoring the site since September. When the bones were unearthed, they shut down construction work on that area of the site and reported the find to the police and to the South African Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra), as required by law.

    Sahra gave the archaeologists a permit to carry out test excavations to establish the extent and implications of the human remains, after which they will submit a report to Sahra and await further instructions.

    Most of the Portswood Ridge West site was excavated some time ago.

    Halkett said: “Our initial impression is that the bones were dug up somewhere else and re-interred in a trench on this site. There is no evidence of individual burials. It is not a recent phenomenon, because there is no modern material with them like tins or plastic.

    “The bones may have been unearthed first in the late 1800s when the site of the old tank farm was dug. Someone may have collected the bones together, dug a trench on this site and put them all in here.”

    He said the tank farm site was originally excavated to make an extension to the harbour for shipping, but was never used for that purpose.

    The tank farm was built on the site later.

    Keith Bryer, spokesperson for BP, said the V&A Waterfront Company was the owner and developer of the site and BP would be the “potential tenants”. As such, BP was not involved in the exhumation of the skeletons.

    Asked if BP would pull out as tenants if the discovery of the skeletons delayed construction for a long time, Bryer replied: “We’ll have to wait and see.”

    This article was originally published on page 1 of Cape Times on October 29, 2003


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