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Video transcript

Dr Andrew Pearson: The final excavation, or the full open air excavation, in 2008 took four months. That's four months with a team of 20, plus St Helenian volunteers. What we generated out of that was the excavation of 325 human bodies, over 100 artefacts connected with them, clothing, beads, metalwork.

We deal casually almost with numbers, who are transported, numbers of who died, estimates vary - 10 million, 12 million, 18 million - and we can almost use them as throwaway figures because they are too big to comprehend. But myself as director of the excavation, the team, you do literally come face to face with children, babies, young mothers and that is a very visceral experience. I think if we can bring that across to not only tell the story academically but tell the story from a personal point of view that's a useful tool to be able to employ.

I think in a way the significance really relates to the Middle Passage because it's not a physical thing, it is a process that people go through. In Africa there's really no physical remains of that process, and the same in the New World. What we have on St Helena is an extremely rare, call it a stopping point. Therefore we have in these cemetaries in this tiny obscure valley, the only place worldwide where you have bodies of slaves who are straight off the slave ship, who are straight off the Middle Passage. That is extraordinarily significant I think, both from a research point of view and also being able to come face to face with the individual victims of the slave trade. 

One of the things we all walked away from the site feeling that this is a story that in the first instance had been forgotten, which is absolutely the truth, but in the second, because of the personal nature really deserved to be told, these people lived and died in the most extraordinarily appalling circumstances, so actually to be able to tell their story is a fantastic opportunity, to have the numbers of people who come through the International Slavery Museum and be able to see our work and see these people's stories. It's very gratifying at the end of a long long project.

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The exhibition was developed in collaboration with the Government of St Helena, the Museum of St Helena and Dr Andrew Pearson. The Rupert's Valley archaeological project was funded by the UK Department for International Development.