Scientific Research Being Conducted On St Helena

PhD candidate in Anthropology at the University of Florida, Andreana (Andree) Cunningham, arrived on-Island on Saturday, 23April 2022, to conduct research on the skeletal remains of the ‘Liberated Africans’ in Rupert’s Valley prior to their reburial. Andree’s study has received approval from Executive Council, and she will be collaborating with St Helena Government and the Liberated African Advisory Committee (LAAC) while she is on-Island to complete her research and conduct education and outreach activities.

Andree hails from two Jamaican parents and has lived in Florida her whole life. She has extensive experience in human osteology, the study of the human skeleton, and diaspora studies, the study of the slave trade and its legacies. Her current work receives funding from the National Science Foundation. Andree’s PhD studies the biosocial patterns observed within and among slave trade sites. This means that she uses both biological and archival data to understand how slave trade sites relate to one another, as well as how each site’s histories may have shaped their biology and social groups uniquely. To date, her work spans the regions of Barbados, Sint Maarten, North America, South Africa, and now St Helena. Andree’s study will measure cranial skeletal shape patterns using a 3D scanner to understand the biological diversity observed at Rupert’s Valley. The Rupert’s Valley data will be compared to the other sites to:

  1. Understand how certain African/Afro-descendant biological groups formed and changed over time
  2. Investigate patterns of biological relatedness that may not be reflected in historic migration data.

The 3D scanning process includes two types of equipment. The first is called a 3D digitiser, which uses a pen-like stylus to lightly tap specific regions on the surface of the cranium to digitally record 3D coordinate data. The coordinates are then analysed with statistical software. The second type of equipment is a 3D scanner, which uses lasers to create a 3D image. The 3D scanner will only be used in cases where bones are broken and require reconstruction. These methods are non-destructive to the remains and require minimal handling of the crania. Permission has only been given to access the remains for 3D scanning whilst the remains are moved into their caskets before sealing for burial. The scanning will not in any way impact the timeline for reburial.

In addition to the described study, Andree will also be working on several community engagement initiatives, including but not limited to historic artefact 3D scanning, school workshops, and historic facial reconstruction. To learn more about Andree, please visit her research website:

For further information about Andree’s research on St Helena, please contact Portfolio Director of Education, Skills & Employment, Wendy Benjamin, via email: or Director of the Saint Helena National Trust, Helena Bennett, via email:  

2 May 2022

St Helena Government Communications Hub

Telephone: 22470