Newton Burial Ground: the gravesite where 580 slaves were buried in Barbados in 1600s 

Stephen Nartey September 30, 2022
Newton Burial ground/Photo credit:Barbados Today

It is a 4500 square meter burial site that was reserved by slaveowners on the Newton Plantation for the burial of enslaved Africans between the 1600 to 1800s. It’s believed at least 580 slaves were laid to rest in low dug graves, and in some instances did not measure up to six feet. 

Archaeological excavations in Barbados in the 1970s revealed possessions including jewelry and utensils owned by the slaves which they were buried with. 

The artifacts, which are being kept at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, provide insight into some customs performed for the enslaved Africans after they pass on at the plantation, according to

The Newton Slave Burial Ground is considered one of the early grave sites for the remains of the enslaved in Barbados. On the plaque eulogizing the dead souls, the historical society acknowledged their longsuffering on plantations where they were treated with scorn and tortured at will. 

The Barbados economy in the 1800s was heavy on cheap labor provided by the slave trade fuelling the sugar plantations. Thousands of enslaved Africans who passed on as a result of the harsh working conditions and brutality suffered at the hands of slave owners were buried in unidentifiable grave sites. The remains of these slaves came to light after excavations on the Newton Plantation site in 1970. 

In his journal ‘African-Type burial’, Jerome Handler indicated that the archaeological team traced the remains of 104 persons that were buried from 1600 to 1820. He explained that he found one of the burials exemplary because it bears significance to early African cemetery sites in America. 

He added that mortuary services were rendered at a small section of the grave site designated for preparing the dead bodies. According to Handler, some of the architecture at the mortuary were made from natural objects while a few were artificial. 

In his description of the graves, he explained that coral limestone was used to build the coverings while a sizable amount of mud was used to fill the grave. He indicated that it presupposed more labor was required to bury a dead slave at the Newton plantation. 

Handler pointed out that despite their status as slaves, respect was accorded to them in how they were buried. He said each dug grave contained the skeletal remains of one person. He however observed that for graves that were not deeply dug, limestone was placed at a 50-centimeter space. 

He said bone analysis of the remains showed that those buried were of African ancestry. Many were not buried with coffins as their skeletal remains were found bare with clothes adorning them. 

He said those who conducted the burial of the slaves were aware of the grave sites of each of the individuals buried as they moved to new burial grounds when the existing ones became full. 

The Newtown Burial ground is situated south of Barbados and was owned by Samuel Newton in the 1660s. 

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: September 30, 2022


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