Back to Kids Homepage Back to Scottsville Museum Homepage


Archaeology and local history tells us that around 900 AD many Middle Atlantic groups were growing maize (maize is a fancy word for corn). Late Woodland period archaeological sites are found in the floodplains of large rivers and streams just like the area where Bruce Park is in relationship to the mighty James River. In general, these groups settled down and became more dependent on the maize and other crops they were starting to farm. Some of the first people in the Albemarle County area were the Monacan Indians and other Sioux (pronounced like the girl’s name, 'Sue') tribes! These were the people that the British encountered when they landed in Jamestown in 1607!

picture from

At the Scottsville Museum we have a small collection of Monacan artifacts, such as arrowheads found on the surface of an area in Totier Creek Park by Jack Hamner. Since they were found on the surface it’s hard to say exactly what their dates might be. If they had been dug up in the layers, or strata, we would know that the layer of dirt above is always younger than the very old layers below. Another way to find out how old these artifacts might be is to compare their style with the other styles of arrowheads found throughout time.

However, even if we don’t know what date something is, its existence in this area brings up the question of how it got here, and we know that the Monacans were living in this area long before the first Scott of Scottsville! The Monacans are a combination of several tribes, who are all members of the Sioux (pronounced like the girl's name, 'Sue') Nations. They worshipped the river as a bringer of life, and so it is no surprise that we find their artifacts in the Scottsville area since it’s located beside the James River. The Monacans, as well as other Native American tribes, did not keep very many documents and written records. Any of their artifacts, uncovered by archaeology, are extremely important to understanding and preserving Monacan history.

The Monacans are known to have traded with the Powhatans (pow-uh-tans) to the east and the Iroquois (ear-uh-coy) to the north. In the 1750s, Thomas Jefferson describes a party of passing Indians on his property near Monticello, who were visiting a burial mound. It is assumed that these were Monacans because the type of burial mound they were visiting is slightly different from the burial mounds of other tribes. Thomas Jefferson excavated on his property and found many Indian graves and documented everything he found. After this, he was named the “Father of American Archaeology” for applying the scientific method to his research.

In 1807, the Monacans settled on Johns Creek in what is today, Lynchburg, VA. This area grew up rapidly to become the modern Monacan Nation. As people continued to populate the Central Virginia area, the Monacan population decreased steadily. In 1989, the tribe was recognized for the first time by the state of Virginia and they now can apply for special rights and funding from the government. As it is today,* the Monacan tribe numbers 1,400 people and has managed to survive since the first settlers landed in Jamestown in 1607.

*Summer of 2004

Monacan Fact Sheet and Additional Activities

by Rachel Gottlieb and Evelyn Edson, 2011


How do we know?   Oral History   Archaeology   Archives/Accessions   Teacher/Parent