The term Hohokam is used to define an archaeological culture that existed from the beginning of the current era to about the middle of the 15th century AD. This culture was centred on the middle Gila River and lower Salt River
drainages, in what is known as the Phoenix basin. This is referred to as the Hohokam Core Area, as opposed to the Hohokam Peripheries or adjacent regions into which the Hohokam Culture extended. Collectively, the Core and Peripheries formed what is referred to as the Hohokam regional system, which occupied the northern or Upper Sonoran Desert in what is now Arizona.
The Hohokam have used simple canals combined with weirs in their various agricultural pursuits. However, between the 7th and 14th centuries they also built and maintained extensive irrigation networks along the lower Salt and middle Gila. These were constructed using relatively simple excavation tools, without the benefit of advanced engineering technologies. The Hohokam cultivated varieties of cotton, tobacco, maize, beans and squash, as well as harvested a vast assortment of wild plants. Later on they also used extensive dry farming systems primarily to grow agave. Their reliance on agricultural strategies based on canal irrigation, vital in their less than hospitable desert environment and arid climate, provided the basis for the aggregation of rural populations into stable urban centres.
Hohokam villages and smaller settlements are found near water and arable land. Clusters of residential areas composed of discrete groups of habitation and utility structures are the norm. Many features of early Hohokam domestic architecture, large square or rectangular pithouses, seem to have been transplanted relatively intact, from early Formative Period examples first developed in the Tucson basin. However, by the 7th century AD, a distinct Hohokam architectural tradition emerged. Individual residential structures were normally excavated approximately 40 cm below ground level, with plastered or compacted floors that covered between 12 and 35 m2, and featured a circular bowl-shaped clay-lined hearth situated near the wall-entry.
Hohokam burial practices varied over time. Initially, the primary method employed was flexed inhumation, similar to the tradition used by the southern Mogollon Culture. In the late Formative and Pre-classic periods the Hohokam cremated their dead. Although the particulars of the practice changed somewhat, the Hohokam cremation tradition remained until around 1300 AD. At this time extended inhumation was adopted.