The true measure of the Hohokam can only be derived from the sum of their material culture. This is best understood from a review of their principal population centres, or more appropriately major villages. Although sharing a common cultural expression each of these major villages has its own unique history of emergence, growth, and eventual abandonment.
Snaketown was the typical Pre-classic Period settlement and preeminent community of the Hohokam culture area. Snaketown is situated within the Hohokam Pima National Monument, located near Santan, Arizona. Excavations conducted in the 1930s and in the 1960s revealed that the site was inhabited from about 300 BC to AD 1050. At its height in the early 11th century, Snaketown was both the centre of the Hohokam culture and of the production of the distinctive Hohokam Buff Ware. Following the last excavations the site was completely recovered with earth, leaving nothing visible above ground.
Overall, Snaketown boasted two ball courts, numerous trash mounds, a small ceremonial mound, a large central plaza, several large community houses, hundreds of residential pithouses, and may have been home to at least several thousand people. After Snaketown was abandoned several minor settlements were founded in vicinity and continued to be occupied until the early 14th century AD. Currently, the Hohokam Pima National Monument is located on Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) land and is under tribal ownership. It covers nearly 1700 acres (6.9 km²). The GRIC decided not to open this extremely sensitive prehistoric site to the public.
• Grewe-Casa Grande
The distinctively modern looking roof that was built in 1932, to protect the Great House or Casa Grande, at the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.
The Grewe-Casa Grande Site was the largest Hohokam community in the middle Gila River valley; it was located between two canals (Canal Casa Grande and Canal Coolidge). This community is recorded as several separate
archaeological sites: Casa Grande, Grewe, Vahki Inn Village, and Horvath sites. Occupied in the Pre-classic and Classic periods, each of these sites was composed of between two and 20 large residential areas. Overall, the greater Grewe-Casa Grande Archaeological Site covered approximately 900 acres.
The four-story Great House found near the centre of the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument attract most attention. Akimel O’odham oral tradition records that prior to the arrival of the Sto’am O’odham, or ‘Coyote People,’ this massive structure was built by an important personage called, Sial Teu-utak Sivan, (Morning-Green Leader) or ‘Chief Turquoise.’ Several O’odham oral traditions note that Sial Teu-utak was an important leader of the Casa Grande community, before the overthrow of the Suwu’Ki O’odham, or ‘Vulture People.’
In the O’odham language the Great House and the associated prehistoric ruins found north of Coolidge were collectively referred to as Sivan Vah’Ki, literally meaning the ‘Abandoned House,’ or ‘Village of the Ruler,’ respectively. Eusebio Francesco Chini (Father Kino) arrived in the middle Gila River valley in 1694 to find the monumental Great House abandoned and already in a state of decay and decomposition. Despite its condition, he and later Jesuit missionaries saw fit to use the ruined Great House to hold mass, between the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Based on the results of archaeological research, the history of the greater Grewe-Casa Grande Site can be reconstructed with some precision. This important village had several groups of pithouses organized around a series of relatively small circular plazas. These buildings appear to date to the 6th century AD and were located along and immediately upslope of the Coolidge Canal system. By the 8th century AD, this dispersed hamlet had expanded nearly a kilometre south and developed into a full-fledged village. At this point the settlement consisted of densely packed yet discrete groups of pithouses clustered around small open courtyards. These structures delineated a large central plaza. Adjoining the plaza was a medium-sized ballcourt, and overall the village was affiliated with several smaller outlaying settlements. In the 10th century at least two large secondary villages were added to the settlement as well as about a dozen new hamlets to the west.
With the abandonment of Snaketown and the transition from the Pre-classic to Classic periods the greater Grewe-Casa Grande community became one of the largest and most important Hohokam population centres. At its height the Grewe-Casa Grande village boosted about 100 trash mounds, several hundred residential pithouses, and four or five ballcourts. However, this settlement never seemed to have attained the status enjoyed by Snaketown. As the western portion of this settlement grew, large sections of the eastern half declined and were abandoned. By the AD 1300, the village was composed of about 19 adobe-walled residential compounds, several pitroom clusters, a platform mound, a great house, and numerous trash mounds. After the middle of the 14th century it began a rapid decline. Around AD 1400 or 1450 the entire settlement was abandoned, except for a low-scale occupation associated with the Polvoron Phase.
Today, about 60 percent of the Grewe-Casa Grande Site has been either destroyed due to agricultural and commercial development, excavated, or remains relatively intact buried under fields used to grow cotton. Only about 40 percent of this once huge settlement can be found within the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.
• Pueblo Grande
Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park near central Phoenix contains preserved ruins and artefact exhibits. Archaeological finds have been recorded along the track of the adjacent Valley Metro light rail construction.
• Mesa Grande
The Mesa Grande Ruins, located in Mesa, Arizona, are from another large Hohokam village that was occupied both in the Pre-classic and Classic periods, from approximately AD 200 to 1450. Although this settlement appears to have been very important, little archaeological work besides the mapping and stabilization projects has been done.
At its peak in the late Pre-classic and early Classic periods this settlement may have consisted of as many as twenty discrete residential areas and covered several 100 acres (400,000 m2). Today, only a small parcel situated immediately west of the Mesa Hospital remains. Within this plot are the ruins of a large adobe compound and a nine meter high relatively intact platform mound. This is only one of the last three remaining Hohokam platform mounds in the greater Phoenix metro area.
• Las Colinas
• Los Hornos
The Hohokam settlement of Los Hornos (from the Spanish los hornos, meaning ‘the ovens’) is located within the modern city of Tempe, Arizona. With urban expansion, additional excavations were conducted in the 1970s, late 1980s, and throughout the 1990s. The results of these comprehensive archaeological projects have shown a large Pre-classic and Classic period village organized much the same as Snaketown and Pueblo Grande respectively, but on a somewhat smaller scale. Los Hornos started around AD 400, as a small cluster of rectangular pithouses situated on the extreme western edge of the site.
Over time the Los Hornos settlement expanded along series of large secondary canals to the east and southeast. At the height of the Pre-classic occupation in the Sacaton Phase this settlement had one large ball court, a large central plaza, several formal cremation cemeteries, numerous trash mounds, and several hundred residential pithouses. The detailed excavation of 50 Pre-classic Period pithouses provided invaluable information concerning residential architecture and the functional use of interior space.
After a short period of population loss and community reorganization in the late 11th and early 12th centuries AD, Los Hornos continued to shift east and south in the Classic Period. This large village appears to have recovered and again became an important settlement late in the Soho or early in the Civano phase, from AD 1277 to 1325. At this time Los Hornos consisted of about 15 residential compounds, a large central plaza, a large rectangular platform mound with an associated compound, several large trash mounds, as well as numerous borrow pits and inhumation and cremation cemeteries.
Prior to the middle of the 14th century AD, with the rise of Los Muertos located several miles to the south and east, the Los Hornos community declined. Although greatly reduced in scale and importance the settlement continued to be occupied until it was abandoned between AD 1400 and 1450. Today much of the Los Hornos village has been destroyed due to modern transportation, residential, and commercial development, or has been excavated. The only surface vestiges of this once significant Hohokam settlement are the remains of several low trash mounds found in the Old Guadalupe Village Cemetery.
. Los Muertos