Monongahela culture: Wikis


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Monongahela cultural region
1050~1635 CE
Clip of 1656 (3) LE CANADA OU NOUVELLE FRANCE &C. by Nicolas Sanson. Huronian Confederacy Iroquois dialect Akounake means "people of a strange language" and Attiouandron means "people of a similar language," based on Canadian Jesuit writings before 1650 from the Récollets. Various "Smith Maps" of these decade's cartography, stemming from Captain John Smith, has the Virginia Indians calling those beyond the Allegheny Mountains as Messawomeck. "Riviere de la Ronceverte" (Greenbrier River), scholars declare the early French Jesuits did not see the main Ohio River during these decades.[1]

The Monongahela culture were a Native Americans cultural manifestation of Late Woodland peoples in Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio and West Virginia from 1050 to 1635 CE.[2] The culture was named for the Monongahela River, whose valley contains the majority of this cultures sites,[3] by Mary Butler in 1939. The Monongahela practiced maize agriculture, and lived in well laid out villages, some of which consisted of as many as 50-100 structures. They also traded with other groups who in turn traded with Europeans, but they seem to have disappeared some time during the 1620s or 1630s before ever having significant direct contact with Europeans. Many believe this to be the result of the spread of European diseases. Others believe that most were killed by or assimilated into either the Iroquois or the Delaware tribes during war. Still others claim that two massive droughts, one from 1587-1589 and another from 1607-1612, drove the Monongahela from the region in search of a more habitable area.


Interculture chronology

An internal temporal subdivision for the Monongahela culture, based on ceramic decorative attributes.[2]

Subdivisions Dates Ceramic markers
Late Monongahela 1580 - 1635 CE Characterized by plain pottery with decoration on lips and inside of the rim, also marks the appearance of ceramic traits that indicate contacts with the Iroquois
Middle Monongahela 1250 - 1580 CE Pottery surfaces usually undecorated, with some decoration on the lip of the pot including notching, incising, or stamping with a cord-wrapped paddle
Early Monongahela 1050 - 1250 CE Characterized by pottery decorated with rectangular incising and/or horizontal punctated bands

Material culture

The Monongahela culture extended in the area of the upper Ohio River system that includes the Monongahela, Youghiogheny and Casselman tributary rivers. Their region is of western Pennsylvania and the adjoining areas of eastern Ohio, West Virginia, and western Maryland. Nearly four hundred sites have now been recorded. The Monongahela culture was contemporaneous to the bordering Fort Ancient culture in the Ohio Valley.[4] The Monongahela is a Late Woodland horizon that coincides with the Mingo homeland and distinguishes it from the Iroquios League homeland.[5] Monongahela villages originated on flood plains, but, by 1250, they had migrated to the watershed highlands and often on gaps between ridges. Archaeologists speculate that the move to these areas, and to larger, fortified villages at this time is a symptom of intergroup warfare.


Village construction

Monongahela houses were small oval to round shaped and were built within palisaded villages with a centrel plaza. These villages entry point often had a maze-like structure that overlapped the stockaded outer walls. Differing from Fort Ancient methods, some entrances were covered. Some of the villages had elevated observation platforms. Charnel houses have been found in the larger villages. Black bear masks have been found in some graves showing a possible indication of a rank. Of the average adult burials, it is not clearly understood where they might have been buried. Child burials were sometimes inside the village and sometimes under the house[6] contrasting Andaste burials which were outside their palisaded village found east of the Allegheny Mountains stemming from 1450/1550.[7] By 1450, petal-shaped attachments to their houses became common and used for storage or perhaps a smokehouse. Monongahela pottery and tools were well crafted and included decorated clay pipes for smoking. Glass trade beads have been found at some villages although there is no record of European contact.

Agriculture and food

Like its sister culture the Fort Ancient, the Monongahela made a leap in agriculture with seed crops from Mesoamerica that had been obtained through their ancestral trade network. Crops such as maize, beans, squash, and sunflower were grown, while wild plant foods such as nuts also provided part of the diet. But, like many contemporary groups to the west and south, maize was by far the largest component of their diet. Animals hunted by the Monongahela included deer, turtles, fish, and shell fish.[2] Advances in tobacco and hemp braid crops also came at this time. They also traded with the east coast agriculturists. Richard Hakluyt is one of the earliest to report on Native American foods of the mid Atlantic coastal people of whom they also traded with. Sea shells from the mid-Atlantic have been found in some sites.[8]


Clip from John Senex map ca 1710 showing the people Captain Vielle, in 1692, passed by to arrive in Chaouenon's country as the French Jesuit called the Shawnee.

This late prehistoric culture peaked about 1300 CE. The colder weather of the Little Ice Age may have caused inter-group battling over food, according to some scholars. Their Central American crops did not prosper as well during this colder period, causing food shortages for populations that had grown after their introduction. Some studies show that the culture began failing due to poor health conditions. The Monongahela culture was progressively disappearing before the time the Iroquois League invaded the Allegheny Plateau through to the Lake Erie region. About the year of 1635, it appears that a group of Monongahela refugees resettled in south-central Virginia at Halifax County. It is not clear if the Iroquois, Piedmont Siouan or Algonquian dialects assimilated these people while the rising Petun, Mingo, Erie, Andaste, Shawnee, Miami, Seneca, Neutral Nation, Tuscarora and Delaware groups appeared in the region.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Joseph Le Caron (b. near Paris in 1586; d. in France, 29 March 1632; first missionary to the Hurons) wrote the first dictionary of the Huron language. The Bibliotheca Universa Franciscana of Jean de S. Antoine, II (Madrid, 1732), 243, says on the evidence of Arturus in his Martyrologium Franciscanum under date of 31 August, that Le Caron wrote also "Qu?rimonia Nov? Franci?" (Complaint of New France). Citation: Publication information Written by Odoric M. Jouve. Transcribed by Mario Anello. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York Bibliography Histoire chronol. de la province de St-Denis (Bibl. Nat., Paris); Mortuologe des Récollets de la province de St-Denis (late seventeenth-century MS., in the archives of Quebec seminary); CHAMPLAIN (Euvres, ed. LAVARDI?RE (6 vols., Quebec, 1870); SAGARD, Histoire du Canada, ed. TROSS (4 vols.. Paris, 1866); LECLERCQ, Premier Etablissment de la Foi dans la Nouvelle France (2 vols., Paris, 1691)
  2. ^ a b c "Monongahela culture-AD 1050-1635".  
  3. ^ "Ohio History Central-Monongahela culture".  
  4. ^ Darla Spencer. "An Archaeological Treasure: a survey of the Lower Kanawha Valley in Putnam and Mason counties". Council for West Virginia Archaeology.  
  5. ^ Thomas McElwain. "The Use of the Mingo Language in the Last Half of the Twentieth Century".  
  6. ^ Dennis Stahl. The Monongahela People.  
  7. ^ Henry W. Hiesey and J. Paul Witmer (1971). Foundations of Pennsylvania Prehistory, The Shenks Ferry People. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg. p. 491.  
  8. ^ Richard Hakluyt (1898). Albert Bushnell Hart. ed. American History Told by Contemporaries. 1. p. 89-95.  
  9. ^ Margaret M. Nava. "Wonderful West Virginia Magazine-The Golden Harvest of the Fort Ancient and Monongahela Cultures".  


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