Casa Grande- Post One

While walking the ruins of Casa Grande, Professor Guse at one point mentioned how this site is one of the most significant pre-European Native American structures in the United States. This statement struck me, not because I didn’t agree with it or didn’t expect it, but because I remembered I’d never heard of Casa Grande, Pueblo Grande, the Hohokam, or even the O’odham people before enrolling in this course. The site represents not only significant architecture among the ancient peoples of the Southwest, but it also demonstrates a complex alignment of architecture, everyday life, and astronomy.

As noted on one of the displays around Casa Grande, several of holes in the structure aligned with astrological events such as the summer solstice, winter solstice, and an event (which name escapes me) that occurred only once every eighteen years. The connection of architecture and astronomy is clear in the design of the building, which shows the Hohokam had a thorough understand of complex astrological patterns. The purpose of this connection, however, brings the importance of agriculture (and by extension, everyday life) into the same realm as both architecture and astronomy.  Once again on one of the displays, it was noted that the theorized purpose of these astronomical measurement was in part to mark seasons as they passed, that the Hohokam might know when it was best to begin planting. Agricultural activity was a fundamental obligation of the average Hohokam citizen, thus the function and existence of Casa Grande blends complex architecture, agriculture, everyday life, and astronomy together to give a picture of an advanced culture existing in the ruthless desert.

As noted earlier, teaching about Casa Grande as an example of Native American culture in the Southwest hasn’t extended at least to the East Coast. By increasing awareness of Casa Grande’s existence, people nationwide could begin to shed misguided notions about the societies in what became the US prior to colonization.


5 Replies to “Casa Grande- Post One”

  1. A very important point to reflect on personally while I’m here – it’s almost sad that I’ve learned more about artifacts of similar importance in other countries than artifacts of one of the first civilizations of my own country. It seems that we’ve learned a lot more from the Hohokam than we realize.

  2. Great post, Patrick. It maybe shouldn’t be surprising that cultures completely outside of western european civilization were doing things like this, but I think you’re right; most people don’t think of pre colonial cultures as skilled engineers, architects and labor managers. And while many have heard of Aztec or Mayan culture, the idea that civilizations like the Hohokam extended into present day U.S. is a fact that I’m willing to bet is unknown to even most college-education Americans.

  3. Regional and cultural parochialism is a pretty wide feature in the United States. So it goes that knowledge of American Indians (past and present) and some of their astounding accomplishments is pretty much hidden under a number of baskets. What always strikes me as amazing every time I return to the Hohokam materials is the fact that those hundreds of miles of deep irrigation canals were made with digging sticks. If you have ever tried using a post-hole digger in even softish ground, you quickly realize what an accomplishment the Hohokan irrigation was.

    1. Harvey, I totally agree about the digging stick thing. Pretty incredible, right? It reminds me of the whole “how did they do it?” question of the pyramids and ancient Egypt. We all know how they did it, but HOW?! You know? Anyway, I don’t discredit their use of sticks to dig the canals, but has anyone ever considered that it was not in fact the Hohokam people but rather aliens that made these canals? It is a viable hypothesis. I would not be surprised if there was a history channel special about this.

  4. Regarding what you said about appreciating and having an awareness of the greatness of the Hohokam culture, I would like to go a step further and bring up the topic of astronomy, which you also mentioned. I believe that many Americans, especially the young folk, do not have much awareness of the wonders of the universe. Do you think that having our public schools take more children stargazing in America would be worth the investment or not?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© Joseph Guse. All rights reserved.