Author: Jeffrey Hantman

associate professor and director of the Archaeology Interdisciplinary Program at the University of Virginia. He has conducted archaeological research in New York, Arizona, and, over the last two decades, the greater Chesapeake region of the Middle Atlantic region. He is co-editor of Across the Continent: Jefferson, Lewis and Clark and the Making of America (2005)

Jefferson’s Mound Archaeological Site

Jefferson’s Mound Archaeological Site is a Virginia Indian burial mound located near the Rivanna River, north of Charlottesville in Albemarle County, although its exact location is unknown. In 1784, Thomas Jefferson directed the excavation of the mound, one of a cluster of thirteen in the Piedmont, Blue Ridge Mountains, and Shenandoah Valley. He found the human remains of adults, children, and infants, and estimated that the mound was the burial site of as many as a thousand people. The jumbled arrangement of bones suggested that the mound was a secondary burial site, where remains were deposited in groups years after people’s deaths. According to a map published by John Smith, the mound was in Monacan Indian territory, and may have been built by Monacans or their ancestors. About 1754, Jefferson observed Indians conducting a ceremony at the mound, and his association of the mound with eighteenth-century Indians provided an inadvertent argument against the prevailing “Lost Race” theory that the mounds were the work of an earlier, supposedly more sophisticated people. Written up as part of his Notes on the State of Virginia (1787), Jefferson’s investigation—systematic, in search of answers to specific questions, and published—was the first example of scientific archaeology in the United States.