From Cvillepedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Monasukapanough was a Monacan Indian village located on the Rivanna River about five miles north of Charlottesville's current downtown.[1]


Colonial history

Monasukapanough was a chief's village (dating to at least the fifteenth century) that was located along both sides of the South Fork Rivanna River at a crossing point near modern Carrsbrook off of Route 29. The name of the settlement is believed to have been derived from "moni," the Siouan word for "ford." Monasukapanough was featured alongside four other major Monacan communities in Captain John Smith's 1612 Map of Virginia. The village was gradually abandoned around the turn of the eighteenth century as a result of continued European encroachments. English planters soon moved into the land and cleared the fields along the river, which increased flooding and deposited silt (in some places more than a foot of it) over the area, quickly burying the village.

As a boy, Thomas Jefferson unknowingly played across the river from Monasukapanough at the home of his childhood friend, Dabney Carr. In his Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), Jefferson recalled witnessing a band of Native Americans pass through the area in the 1750's, with the group having "went through the woods directly to it [Monasukapanough], without any instructions or enquiry, and having staid about it some time, with expressions which were construed to be those of sorrow, they returned to the high road, which they had left about half a dozen miles to pay this visit, and pursued their journey.”[2] It is possible that these individuals were Cherokee, Catawba, or members of another tribe passing through rather than Monacans still living in the local area. In the 1780's, Jefferson excavated several large burial mounds (which he called "barrows") in the area of the site of Monasukapanough.

Modern history

David Bushnell began working on the the site of Monasukapanough in 1911, fully excavating it in 1931 (both of these projects were sponsored by the Smithsonian).[3] He was the first archaeologist to connect the village that had been labeled on Smith's map with the burial mounds that had been mentioned by Jefferson in his writings. Bushnell also noted that the burial mounds were no longer visible by the 1930's.[4]

By the twenty-first century, the site of Monasukapanough was owned by the developer Charles Hurt, who offered 20 acres of his property (including the area of the former village) on a long-term, no-payment lease to the Soccer Organization of Charlottesville-Albemarle (SOCA) for a new soccer complex. At the urging of the UVA professor Jeffrey Hantman (who wished to begin excavating the area with his students), representatives of The Archaeological Conservancy and the Monacan Nation began working closely with both Hurt and SOCA to protect the portion of the field that included the site of Monasukapanough as a permanent archaeological preserve. According to Hantman, Albemarle County officials had already known the site was likely a significant historical location and for this reason had flagged the county planners; however, due to no zoning ordinances for private land existing at that time, none of the federal laws on the subject were activated.

In 2001, Hantman and his students conducted a field school on the site and contributed their time, working with SOCA officials in a spirit of cooperation. Throughout the course of their excavation of the site, they discovered a number of artifacts that dated from the seventeenth century. Additionally, utilizing radiocarbon dating, Hantman was able to confirm that the area had been continually inhabited by the Monacans for numerous centuries before that point, lending credence to the tribe's applications for federal recognition that were ultimately approved in 2017.[5]


  1. Web. Charlottesville Urban Design and Affordable Housing, Kenneth A. Schwarz, Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, retrieved November 29, 2012.
  2. Web. Monasukapanough, LoCoHistory, 02/08/2007
  3. Web. The Monacan in Virginia, Virginia Places
  4. Web. Monasukapanough: An Example Site, Virginia Center for Digital History
  5. Web. Righting History: Following in the footsteps of Thomas Jefferson, Jeffrey Hantman's excavation of a Monacan Indian village is setting the historical record straight, American Archaeology Magazine, Spring 2001