The African Diaspora: Mitochondrial DNA and the Atlantic Slave Trade

Antonio Salas, Martin Richards, María Victoria Lareu, Rosaria Scozzari, Alfredo Coppa, Antonio Torroni, Vincent Macaulay, Angel Carracedo

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206 Citations (Scopus)


Between the 15th and 19th centuries AD, the Atlantic slave trade resulted in the forced movement of ∼13 million people from Africa, mainly to the Americas. Only ∼11 million survived the passage, and many more died in the early years of captivity. We have studied 481 mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs) of recent African ancestry in the Americas and in Eurasia, in an attempt to trace them back to particular regions of Africa. Our results show that mtDNAs in America and Eurasia can, in many cases, be traced to broad geographical regions within Africa, largely in accordance with historical evidence, and raise the possibility that a greater resolution may be possible in the future. However, they also indicate that, at least for the moment, considerable caution is warranted when assessing claims to be able to trace the ancestry of particular lineages to a particular locality within modern-day Africa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)454-465
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Genetics
Issue number3
Early online date10 Feb 2004
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004


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