Hohokam

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When farmers began cultivating the desert area near the San Tan Mountains in the early 1900s, they regularly uncovered artifacts from the past - pieces of pottery, stones tools, and more. These were often considered nuisances, and were tossed to the side of the fields or discarded. For a few, like the Brooks family living in Queen Creek, these artifacts represented a time of historic significance; a prehistoric time when an ancient people farmed this desert area. Mina and Robert discovered many stone tools and pieces of broken pottery lying in the fields and along wash banks. They ensured that these were preserved for many to appreciate in the years to come.

HohokamWe were preceded in this area by a people the Pima called “Hohokam” meaning the “vanished ones.” Scholars generally agree today that the Hohokam evolved from an earlier local hunting and gathering culture. Archaeologists date the earliest sites of these pioneering desert dwellers to around the time of Christ. By A.D. 700, the Hohokam were thriving in numerous farming villages around south central Arizona. Their culture reached a climax between A.D. 1100 and 1400, after which, for reasons still unknown, it declined.

According to articles published by Suzanne K. Fish, an etnobotanist and research associate at the Arizona State Museum, “these prehistoric farmers developed strains of beans that were heat, drought, and insect resistant, and quickly maturing corn varieties that avoided the risks of an extended growing period in the desert. Their beans included tepary beans, common beans, lima beans, and jack beans. They also raised squash and pumpkin, from which the flesh and seeds were eaten, and bottle gourds, which were used as containers. In addition, cotton was grown as a source of textile fiber and for the oily cotton seeds, which were toasted and eaten. The Hohokam added to the productivity of their agriculture by transplanting selected desert perennials such as agave or century plant and possibly cholla. When baked in a pit, stored nutrients in the plant base are converted to a sweet, pithy food. Fibers in the leaves can be extracted to make string, rope, nets, and coarse cloth.”

The Maricopa County Department of Transportation, as part of the Riggs Road Improvement Project, has created a video about the Pozos de Sonoqui site in Queen Creek. The film highlights the significance of the cultural resources aspects of the roadway design project, as well as the historical importance of the ancient Hohokam in our Sonoran Southwest desert region.