Due to the poor preservation of archaeological artifacts in the Virginia Piedmont, caused by the highly acidic soil of the area, archaeologists in the region often have to rely heavily on historic references when possible. However, this tends to be problematic with the Monacans, a culture that seemed to shrink away with the thought of English expansion into the area. Historic documents, though, show that the English were well aware of the presence of Monacans in the region, and the large burial mounds that they left behind were a clear sign of their presence earlier.

Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia
In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson writes of a Monacan party traveling through the area. Jefferson wrote his Notes in response to a set of Inquiries made by the French government to each of the original colonies shortly after the end of the American Revolution, concerning the geography, resources, and “aborigines” of the colonies. Making a detour well off the normal path of travel, he observed the Monacans visiting a burial mound located on the Rivanna River in Albemarle. It is this same mound that Jefferson later excavated as the first archaeologist in North America, the report of which is included in his Notes. Jefferson also provided in the passage a full census of the remaining Indian tribes left in the commonwealth at the time.

Writings of David Ives Bushnell
Over one hundred years later, David I. Bushnell of the Smithsonian Institute visited Charlottesville to locate this mound that Jefferson had earlier dug. An expert on Piedmont Indians, Bushnell published a book of Monacan sites, The Five Monacan Towns in Virginia, 1607. In this book, Bushnell had written of the village of Monasukapanough in Albemarle County as likely being the same site as the mound earlier excavated by Jefferson. Bushnell later visited the site and conducted this own excavation, finding the remnants of habitation, but no signs of the long plowed-over mound. He reported his findings from this excavation in his report Evidence of Indian Occupancy in Albemarle County, Virginia.

Smith Map of Virginia, 1609

Some of the clearest evidence, though, of a Monacan presence in the Virginia interior, and specifically Albemarle County, is evidence found on various maps made at the time. The famous map of Virginia made by John Smith showed a large portion of western Virginia, past the falls of the James River, as the domain of the Monacans. He included the place names of several Monacan villages, including the village of Monasukapanough discussed by Bushnell. However, Smith never visited the locations of most places in the interior of Virginia, the locations being included based only on reports from Powhatan Indians.

Evans Map of Eastern North America, 1755
A second, later map made by Lewis Evans in 1755, was made after English expansion had grown to include the area of Albemarle County. On this map, just to the west of Charlottesville, Evans labels a large area as being inhabited by the Monacans and Tuscaroras. This shows that, even as late as 1755, the Monacans were shown to have a continued presence in the area, against the idea of “disappearing Indians” popular at the time.

Modern Place Names in Albemarle County
Albemarle County has surprisingly few buildings, areas, or streams named for Native Americans. Most place names in Albemarle County referring to either Indians or to the Monacan Indian tribe are historical. The Green Peyton Map of 1875 includes a reference to “Indian Fields”, which may have been an estate, in the northeast corner of the County near what is now Gordonsville. Also, a stream near Monticello is called Indian Branch, supposedly “named for the Indians who hunted or camped in this area.” Most importantly, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) includes a location for “Monacan Town” in the heart of Albemarle County near the fork of the Rivanna River. The USGS marks the site as “historical”, which means that the name was probably removed from official government maps at least one hundred or more years ago when the name became antiquated. Although we do not know whether the name referenced an Indian settlement or another type of settlement, the name is significant.