archaeologist finds Arizona's ancient Hohokam was complex, advanced
culture that may have reached the West Coast
Patricia McBroom, Media Relations
- Southwestern archaeology has long been dominated by the
Anasazi people who farmed the high plateaus of the Four Corner's
region and left magnificent settlements cut into the sheer
faces of vertical cliffs.
who inhabited the dry Sonoran desert of southern Arizona,
were more or less ignored, even though they had by far the
most advanced canal irrigation system in the New World.
spotlight is on the Hohokam, with results that reveal a very
large, multiethnic network that may have spread all the way
to the Southern California coast, according to the work of
research archaeologist Steven Shackley at the Phoebe Hearst
Museum of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.
research on obsidian sources and projectile points confirms
that Hohokam peoples managed a large, integrated economic
area that covered most of Arizona, from the Colorado River
to New Mexico and from Flagstaff to the Mexican border. Moreover,
related groups may even have moved into Southern California
carrying aspects of the distinctive Hohokam culture into the
Imperial Valley and the San Diego area.
of Hohokam culture, which Shackley will present this spring
at the Society for American Archaeology meeting in New Orleans,
thoroughly mixes up the story of Native American roots. It
gives many contemporary Native American Southwest groups a
claim to Hohokam ancestry, now claimed by Arizona's Pima and
Tohono O'Odham peoples.
to common belief, the archaeological and linguistic evidence
indicates that the Hohokam were a diverse multiethnic and
multilingual society that is mirrored in the current Native
American composition of all of south, central and western
Arizona," said Shackley.
said that by their classic period (1150-1350 AD), the Hohokam
comprised the most advanced culture in the Southwest.
thousands of square miles of hot, dry desert into farmland
with water carried through hundreds of miles of canals.
villages of thousands of people, with platform mounds and
great-houses at the center where the elites lived. The most
impressive of these was the walled, multistory adobe structure
at Casa Grande, the remnants of which still beckon visitors
at this site between Phoenix and Tucson.
hundreds of miles by foot for trade in obsidian and marine
and kin networks spread over at least 50,000 square miles
of desert and perhaps into California and Baja California,
forming a cohesive cultural unit that crossed ethnic and linguistic
boundaries, according to Shackley's research.
most remarkable of all, the Hohokam maintained this ethnically
diverse economic region with little sign of warfare anywhere
in the archaeological record.
find any evidence of warfare in the skeletal remains anywhere
in the Hohokam region for 600 years (700-1300 AD)", said Shackley.
departs from the record of the Anasazi whose culture fell
into warfare and violence in the 13th century, probably, in
part, as a result of a 23-year drought that devastated their
belief that this desert region of Arizona - home to several
significantly different linguistic groups - comprised an integrated
Hohokam culture area is based partially on studies of the
sources of obsidian used to make stone tools. With laboratory
analysis, he has precisely pinpointed the source of thousands
of pieces of raw obsidian and projectile points found in Hohokam
black rocks in the desert," as Shackley calls them, confirm
that the Hohokam community covered most of Arizona, as ceramic
and projectile point styles had suggested. At the same time,
there was local variation in style under the Hohokam umbrella,
suggesting a heterogeneous society.
thesis that the Hohokam includes the Patayan culture group
that extended into Imperial Valley in Southern California
is based on the style of projectile points and ceramics and
other material remains. No obsidian apparently was traded
across the Colorado River.
said that the material remains of prehistoric Patayan people
from Lake Cahuilla sites in Imperial Valley and sites further
west in the San Diego/Tijuana region strongly point to Hohokam
origin. Ceramics, burial practices, rock art, tools and origin
stories are all similar to Hohokam. But most important are
the projectile point forms, said Shackley.
Colorado Desert to the California coast, projectile points
are virtually indistinguishable from the collections at the
core Hohokam sites of Snaketown and the Gila Bend area," he
this mean for descendants of this ancient society?
that the Hohokam were more heterogeneous than we realized,"
said Shackley. " Linguistically, the Pima (in Arizona) and
the Yuman (in Western Arizona and California) are as different
as English and Basque. But archaeologists are coming to see
them all as probable descendants of the Hohokam."