Park Authority

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Open during regular business hours 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday

703-324-8700
TTY 711

12055 Government Center Pkwy.
Fairfax, Virginia 22035

Sara Baldwin,
Acting Executive Director

artiFACTS

The Fairfax County Park Authority’s Museum Collections are home to more than 5,000 museum objects (chairs, quilts, baskets, machines, clothing) ,
thousands of archival items (photographs, maps, letters and other documents), upwards of three million artifacts (archaeological discoveries such as spear points, pottery) . They are the stories of Fairfax County.

A Very Rare Find

A Very Rare FindAround the year 1360, a skilled Dogue Indian living near the Occoquan River carved this small soapstone effigy of what appears to be a beaver or an otter. At that time, beavers and otters were found in great numbers in North American waterways and coastal areas, and the detail and expression on the animal’s head reflect the artist’s familiarity with these playful creatures. The effigy may have been part of a smoking pipe or full animal figurine, and it is one of the most important artifacts recovered in Fairfax County because of where it was found.

Archaeologists excavated the effigy at the Hartwell Site in southern Fairfax County, which the Dogue Indians occupied during the Late Woodland period (A.D. 900-1600). This significant site may be Tauxenent, the Dogue people’s major village that English Captain John Smith documented during his journey up the Potomac River in 1608. Tauxenent was situated strategically at the mouth of the Occoquan River and may have been home to up to 170 people when Smith passed by. One of Smith’s companions wrote of “… a few beaver, otters, bears, martins and minks we found.”

After Smith’s explorations, Europeans settled along North America’s east coast. As the fur trade expanded, beaver and otter populations plummeted as trappers killed millions of animals and exported their pelts to Europe. By the early 1900s, beavers and otters had disappeared from much of their historic range. Wetland drainage and water pollution contributed to their decline. In 1932, Virginia game managers relocated 35 beavers from other states to restore the state’s beaver populations. Similarly, Virginia’s otter population had so declined that they were declared a state endangered species in 1978.

A Very Rare FindLife for beavers and otters is much better today. Conservation and wetlands management efforts in Fairfax County and elsewhere have restored habitats where beavers and river otters are again finding homes. In January 2021, a North American river otter unexpectedly appeared at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, where Jane Gamble photographed it eating a fish. This otter quickly became a celebrity during its brief visit. People may see beavers and an occasional river otter at several parks in Fairfax County, including The Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Mason Neck State Park, and the Meadowood Special Management Recreation Area.

The artist who created the animal effigy 650 years ago lived in what is now eastern Fairfax County, where native animals and plants thrived. Today, it’s easy to learn about Fairfax County’s plants, beavers and other animals that the Dogue Indians knew. Just download the Field Guide to Fairfax County’s Plants and Wildlife.

Other artiFacts

Grow your History Knowledge with a Pretty Flowerpot
Grow your History Knowledge with a Pretty Flowerpot
Fairfax County Woman was Role Model for Nurses in early 1900s
Home Schooling – 1820s Style
Fairfax County Woman was Role Model for Nurses in early 1900s
Fairfax County Woman was Role Model for Nurses in early 1900s
The Coat Off His Back
The Coat Off His Back
Serve a Slice of History
Serve a Slice of History
A Light in Dark Places
A Light in Dark Places
Old-Fashioned Ballot Box Reflects How Times Have Changed on Election Day
Old-Fashioned Ballot Box Reflects How Times Have Changed on Election Day
Someone Lost Their Marbles, Literally!
Someone Lost Their Marbles, Literally!
Photo or Drawing
Is It a Photo or Drawing?
We Found It! We Found…Clorox!
We Found It! We Found…Clorox!
Tracing the Origins of Silhouettes
Tracing the Origins of Silhouettes
Projectile Point Points to Ancient History of Mount Air
Projectile Point Points to Ancient History of Mount Air
Entertaining with Japanese Imari Ware
Entertaining with Japanese Imari Ware
Putting the Pieces Back Together
Putting the Pieces Back Together
The Curious Tales of a Jacket with No Tail
The Curious Tales of a Jacket with No Tail
Orange and Alexandria Railroad
Orange and Alexandria Railroad
Decoration or Symbol of Resistance?
Cookie Cutters Offer a Taste of History
Decoration or Symbol of Resistance?
Raise a Glass to “Air-Twist” Glass Stems
Decoration or Symbol of Resistance?
History Served Up at Great Falls Grange
Decoration or Symbol of Resistance?
Decoration or Symbol of Resistance?
Fans Serve Double Duty for Cooling and Advertising
Fans Serve Double Duty for Cooling and Advertising
More Than Meets the Eye: The Rigg-Buckley House
More Than Meets the Eye: The Rigg-Buckley House
A 3D Experience from the Past
A 3D Experience from the Past
Turning the Dirt
Turning the Dirt
Before the Era of Prom-posals, there were Dance Cards
Before the Era of Prom-posals, there were Dance Cards
More Than Just a Pretty Face
More Than Just a Pretty Face
A Wintery Look at Historic Green Spring
A Wintery Look at Historic Green Spring
Mystery Metal Pieces Keep Archaeologists Guessing
Mystery Metal Pieces Keep Archaeologists Guessing
A Christmas Day Wedding Gift that Gives a History Lesson
A Christmas Day Wedding Gift that Gives a History Lesson
Poking into History with Straight Pins
Poking into History with Straight Pins
A Summer Wedding for Clark House's First Residents
A Summer Wedding for Clark House's First Residents
Innovative American Art Form Made Art more Affordable
A Thimble Sheds Light on the Lives of Women in History
Innovative American Art Form Made Art more Affordable
Innovative American Art Form Made Art more Affordable
Newspaper Discovery Shines Light on Suffragette Movement
Newspaper Discovery Shines Light on Suffragette Movement
Ellanor C. Lawrence Time Capsule
The Ellanor C. Lawrence Park Time Capsule
Dried Sediment Ready to be Examined
Glass Beads Provide Connection to Our Past
Frying Pan Meeting House Bible
Meeting House Bible
Tin Glaze Ceramics
Tin Glaze Ceramics
Lincoln Portrait
Lincoln Portraits Enjoyed Popularity in America’s Past
Staffordshire Slipware
The Origin of Staffordshire Slipware
Christmas Quilt
Christmas Quilt has Ties to Dranesville Tavern
Violin
Milling and Music in Fairfax County History
Hand-Wrought Nails
Hand-Wrought Nails in Early America
Family Gazette
Newspaper Provides Insight into Past Residents of Green Spring
Stoneware
Stoneware Offers Insights to Time Periods and Activities
Sully Car
Photo Prompts Cruise Down Memory Lane
Gun Flint
Gun Flint
Buttons
Buttons Attach us to History
Church Pew
Church Pew Offers Lesson on County’s Cultural and Racial History
Tobacco Pipe
White Clay Tobacco Pipe
Agate
An Agate & The Grange
Glass Fragments
Glass Fragments Provide a Window into the Past
Child’s Tea Set
A Child’s Tea Set
Colonial Hinge
Hand-wrought Colonial Hinge
Commencement Invitation
Floris Vocational High School Commencement Invitation
Colonial Padlock
Colonial Padlock
Silk Top Hat
Silk Top Hat
Tobacco Promotional Pipe
Lorillard’s Tobacco Promotional Pipe
Long-distance Education before the Internet
Long-distance Education before the Internet
Fire Screens
The Purpose of Fire Screens
Broken Glass
More Than Broken Glass
Sully Mirror
Reflections of History
Cryptic Note
Mysterious Object, Cryptic Note
Tobacco Pipe
Sully Tall Clock

 

Fairfax Virtual Assistant