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SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human

Feb 2, 2022

For many, archaeology means digging up historical artifacts from beneath the ground. But to some, that framework is also violent and colonial. What would it mean to leave ancestors and belongings where they’re found? In this episode, Gabrielle Miller, a PhD student studying African Diaspora Archaeology at the University of Tulsa shares a story about excavations in St. Croix. And Dr. Ayana Flewellen and Dr. Justin Dunnavant discuss how black archaeologists began uncovering sunken slave ships.


  • (00:02:26) What parts of Archaeology as we know it should be preserved? And what needs to be destroyed?
  • (00:02:51) Introduction.
  • (00:03:24) Gabrielle Miller explains their research on the Free Black Community in St. Croix.
  • (00:07:07) Meet, a ship called the Guerrero.
  • (00:08:43) How Diving with a Purpose originated.
  • (00:09:39) Justin Dunnavant and Ayana Flewellen create The Society of Black Archaeologists.
  • 00:12:25) A guide to underwater, or maritime archaeology.
  • 00:16:09) What Black Feminist archaeology is adding to the field.
  • (00:21:29) How learning from artists can help stretch the academic container.
  • (00:25:17) Credits.


SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human, is produced by House of Pod and supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation. SAPIENS is also part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library. This season was created in collaboration with the Indigenous Archaeology Collective and Society of Black Archaeologists, with art by Carla Keaton, and music from Jobii, _91nova, and Justnormal. For more information and transcriptions, visit


This episode was also sponsored by the Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology at the University of California, San Diego and The Imago Mundi Fund at Foundation for the Carolinas.

For more information and transcripts, visit

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Gabrille Miller is a PhD student at the University of Tulsa studying African Diaspora Archaeology. Her current research engages the expressions and legacies of freedom and resistance in an eighteenth-and-nineteenth-century free Black community in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands in collaboration with the heritage practitioners, artisans, historians, and descendants of that community. Another extension of her work is with the organization Diving with a Purpose as an Instructor Candidate and in Youth Diving with a Purpose (YDWP)/National Park Service as an underwater archaeology intern, educator and mentor. 


Dr. Justin Dunnavant is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at UCLA. His current research in the US Virgin Islands investigates the relationship between ecology and enslavement in the former Danish West Indies. In addition to his archaeological research, Justin is co-founder of the Society of Black Archaeologists and an AAUS Scientific SCUBA Diver. In 2021, he was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer and inducted into The Explorers Club as one of “Fifty People Changing the World that You Need to Know About,” and has been featured on Netflix's "Explained," Hulu's "Your Attention Please" and in print in American Archaeology and Science Magazine. 


Dr. Ayana Omilade Flewellen (they/she) is a Black Feminist, an archaeologist, a storyteller, and an artist. Flewellen is the co-founder and current President of the Society of Black Archaeologists and sits on the Board of Diving With A Purpose. They are an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Riverside. Her research and teaching interests address Black Feminist Theory, historical archaeology, maritime heritage conservation, public and community-engaged archaeology, processes of identity formations, and representations of slavery. Flewellen has been featured in National Geographic, Science Magazine, PBS, and CNN; and regularly presents her work at institutions including The National Museum for Women in the Arts.