A long-ignored prehistoric mound building people
By the 14th century more than a dozen accretional burial mounds—reaching heights of 12 to 15 feet—marked the floodplains of interior Virginia. Today, none of these mounds built by the nearly forgotten Monacan Indians remain on the landscape, having been removed over the centuries by a variety of natural and cultural causes. This study uses what remains of the mounds—excavated from the 1890s to the 1980s— to gain a new understanding of the Monacans and to gauge their importance in the realm of the late prehistoric period in the Eastern Woodlands.
Based on osteological examinations of dozens of complete skeletons and thousands of isolated bones and bone fragments, this work constructs information on Monacan demography, diet, health, and mortuary ritual in the 10th through the 15th centuries. The results show an overall pattern of stability and local autonomy among the Late Woodland village societies of interior Virginia in which a mixture of maize farming and the collection of wild food resources were successful for more than 600 years.
This book—uniting biological and cultural aspects of the data for a holistic understanding of everyday life in the period—will be of interest to ethnohistorians, osteologists, bioarchaeologists, and anyone studying Late Woodland, Mississippian, and contact periods, as well as middle range societies, in the Eastern Woodlands.
"With the eyes of Sherlock Holmes, Gold takes both scraps of historical information and, more important, fragments of skeletal remains and constructs the late prehistory of the mysterious and overlooked Monacans of western Virginia. Her work is extremely valuable to the fields of bioarchaeology and history."
—Keith P. Jacobi, author of Last Rites of the Tipu Maya: Genetic Structuring in a Colonial Cemetery
"I applaud Gold's delineation of hypotheses and their attendant expectations. I find this to be science at its best. . . . A fine piece of research covering a topic from a geographical area where little is known. Thus, it is a valuable adjunct to any human osteologist's library."American Journal of Physical Anthropology