The Hohokam culture flourished around 1 AD and remained in existence till 1450 AD. It is one of the major Southwest US culture. The Hohokam culture was surrounded by Mogollan culture in the east, Anasazi culture in north and Patayan culture in west. The areas covered by Hohokam culture are the drainage basin of Gila River and Salt River which is collectively called Phoenix Basin. This culture extended till present day upper Sonoran desert in Arizona. The word Hohokam came from word Hoohoogum which is used by the Native Americans living presently in the southwest to denote their ancestors.
History and Ancestors
The Hohokam people are believed to have some connection with Mexico. Certain archeological studies reveal that Hohokam people were having trade links with the people living in north Mexico. One more theory suggests that Hohokam people actually migrated from Mexico to settle down in south Arizona. The Hohokam people are ancestors of O’odham group and modern day Pima groups in southern Arizona.
Irrigation, Canals and Agriculture
The Hohokam people used to live in the driest regions of North America. The extensive canal network built between 7th to 14th century ad worked as a boon for these people. The canals were carried out from Gila River and Salt River. Hohokam people used to grow crops like cotton, tobacco, maize, beans and squash.
The settlement sites were built near the water bodies. They were mostly clusters of square or rectangular pithouses. The floor area of houses was about 30 m2. The excavations have revealed houses that were having decorative clay lined wall border. The most famous settlement site is Casa Grande. Apart from this there are sites like Snaketown near Santan Arizona, Pueblo Grande near Phoenix, Las Colinas, Los hornos near Tempe Arizona.
The Casa Grande ruins were the largest settlement of Hohokam people. It was located near River Gila valley. It is almost spread in 3.5 km2 area near Coolidge, Arizona. The Casa Grande is actually of cluster of more than 25 settlement sites. Most important among these sites is four floors high Great House situated in the center of ruins. This huge structure was built by Sial Teu-utak Sivan, (Morning-Green Leader) or ‘Chief Turquoise’ during the Classic Period of Hohokam culture. Many burial sites, pit houses, artifacts, ball court etc have been excavated from this site.
The Hohokam people are remembered as ‘burden basket carrier’. The pottery figures suggest that these people were great hikers and used to carry a big load on their back. They had trade relation with Patayan, Mogollon and Anasazi People. Trade routes are found in places like Arizona, New Mexico, Mexico and California.They used to trade items like pottery, cloths, shell jewelry, necklaces, bracelets, anklets etc.
These people used to make sharp knives blades and projectile points to hunt various desert animals. They also created potteries decorated by human paintings or animal paints. The potteries were used for storage purposes. They made beautiful shell based jewelries which they imported from the California’s coastal regions.
Ritual and Ceremonies
The Hohokam community was most famous for their ball game. The ball game was very similar to modern day football. They used to play ball games in ball courts which were firstly built in 700 AD. They also used to make a fireplace near their mounds where they used to dance celebrate or eat together in groups.
The Hohokam community is mostly known for its peculiar burial practices. They used to cremate body after performing rituals. The dead body was well decorated with nice clothes and jewelery. The body was purified with incense sticks. The body was burned on a platform that was built on pile of wood.
The Hohokam after a major drought in Arizona migrated back to Mexico. One more theory suggests that few of them migrated in the northern sides. They later evolved in present day Pima groups and O’odham groups.