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The ancient Monongahela people lived in what is now northern West Virginia and adjacent areas of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland in the late prehistoric and near-historic (or protohistoric) periods (A.D. 1200–1690). The Monongahela were contemporaries of the Fort Ancient people living farther south, but culturally distinct. They built circular houses and lived in small, circular, stockaded villages. These were located along the Ohio River and its major tributaries, north of the vicinity of present Moundsville, and along the Monongahela River, north of present Fairmont. Because of the smaller floodplains in the northern Ohio River drainage, the Monongahela people also occupied numerous upland villages along major Indian trails located along drainage divides.

The Monongahela practiced intensive corn horticulture, made shell-tempered pottery, and hunted deer, elk, bear, and turkey with the bow and arrow. Excavated villages from the late prehistoric period include Britt Bottom and the Saddle Site in Marshall County, the Duvall Site in Ohio County, and Belldina’s Bottoms in Monongalia County. Villages with later occupations, where European trade goods have been recovered, include the Hughes Farm Site in Ohio County and the LaPoe Site near Morgantown.

Archeologists have failed to connect West Virginia’s prehistoric people to specific Indian tribes of the historic period. Based on early 17th-century cartographic, historic, and ethno historic documentation, however, the later Monongahela people of the proto historic period may have been Iroquoian speakers belonging to the Massawomeck (Black Minqua) and the Atiouandaron groups. The Black Minqua wore a black badge on their breasts, and some archeologists believe these are the cannel coal pendants that are common at Monongahela sites. The Monongahela supplied furs to Iroquoian tribes in the lower Great Lakes and acted as middlemen in the marine shell trade which originated in the Chesapeake Bay area. By 1635, they were dispersed by the Seneca, and those remaining joined the Susquehannocks (White Minqua) in eastern Pennsylvania.

This Article was written by Robert F. Maslowski

Last Revised on January 24, 2017


Johnson, William C. "The Protohistoric Monongahela and the Case for an Iroquois Connection," in David S. Brose, et al., eds, Societies in Eclipse: Archaeology of the Eastern Woodlands Indians, A.D. 1400-1700. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001.

Means, Bernard K. Circular Reasoning: Ring- Shaped Village Settlements in the Late Prehistoric Southwestern Pennsylvania and Beyond. Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology, (2001).

Cite This Article

Maslowski, Robert F. "Monongahela Culture." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 24 January 2017. Web. 18 April 2024.


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