Surfacing the past to teach the future


In 1860, the Peter Mowell, a slave ship, was transporting more than 400 humans from the Congo River in Africa to Havana, Cuba, to be sold in a slave auction.

However, on July 25, 1860, the ship ran aground in the Abaco chain of the Bahamian Islands, and the human cargo was set free.

Michael Pateman — a senior archeologist of the Antiquities, Monuments and Museum Corporation of the Bahamas — began excavating the Peter Mowell in July. Prior to these excavations, Pateman researched the shipwreck for five years with Corey Malcom, director of archeology at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Florida.

As part of Anthropology Month, Pateman will speak in Room 132 of DeBartolo Hall at 7 p.m. Thursday. His lecture is titled “The Last Slave Ship in the Bahamas: the Wreck of the Peter Mowell.”

“We try to bring a different speaker each year as a way for us to celebrate,” said Matt O’Mansky, an associate professor of sociology and anthropology and adviser to the Youngstown State University Anthropology Colloquium.

Pateman said he got into archeology because of his interest in history, adding that archeology documents what happened in the past.

“I enjoy speaking about the work I do here in the Bahamas, and specifically about archaeology and how our work can enhance the written record,” Pateman said.

Now that the fieldwork component of the research is complete, Pateman said he is working to track down descendants of the slaves who were set free. He’s interested in doing “further research into what happened to the liberated Africans who came off of the boat,” as well as “cleaning the artifacts.”

Ron Shaklee, a professor of geography, said he’s been taking students to the Bahamas to do research alongside Pateman since 1987.

Shaklee said students will benefit from Pateman’s lecture at YSU. He said Pateman’s visit will also strengthen YSU’s link to the Bahamas.

Jessica Morris, vice president of the YSU Anthropology Colloquium, said she hopes that students will leave Pateman’s lecture with a new interest in archeology and anthropology.

“I hope that any undecided students that attend Michael Pateman’s lecture think about possibly looking into anthropology as a major,” she said. “I added anthropology as a second major my senior year, so it’s never too late.”

Morris said she’s interested in hearing about the shipwreck, as well as learning from an experienced archeologist.

Pateman said he’d like to give lecture attendees a glimpse of what it’s like to be an archeologist.

“It has to be something you love,” he said. “Archaeology is not all as glamorous as it may seem, and anyone who is interested in pursuing it as a career has to be prepared for the long, hard work.”

The lecture — which is free and open to the public — is sponsored by the departments of Africana studies, anthropology, geography and history; the YSU Anthropology Colloquium; and the Diversity Council.

For more information about the lecture, call 330-941-3409. Visit for more information about the Peter Mowell.  

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