The Home of the Hohokam (1)

For many centuries, the Hohokam lived and flourished around the area that is now Phoenix. With complicated irrigation canals, ball courts, and in general maximizing the elements given to them by their environment, they made the best of their hot but dry environment with its prickly pear cacti and all. However, growing in in New Orleans and going to a college in Virginia, I have never experienced the arid, cloudless landscape that defines southern Arizona.

As I walked around the ruins of Casa Grande and Pueblo Grande, I tried to picture myself cooking and socializing under a ramada and collecting saguaro fruit in the blazing sun. However, the whole environment felt so unfamiliar that I struggled to connect with the landscape at all. Let alone trying to imagine sharing only one room with my whole family, I was astonished to hear from our tour guide, Lary, that the Hohokam would have slept outside unless they were experiencing severe weather. They did not try to separate themselves from their surroundings at all. In line with their belief in the close kinship of all animals and all of nature, they seemed to exhibit this even in their sleeping habits, differing greatly from most modern peoples’ relationships with their environment.

As I get more used to the heat and the muted colors of this desert, I hopefully will be able to empathize with the way of life of the Hohokam as we spend more time exploring southern Arizona and learning about the Hohokam and Tohono O’odham.

A pit-style house at Pueblo Grande
Ruins near Casa Grande

3 Replies to “The Home of the Hohokam (1)”

  1. Great post. That comment about their sleeping habits struck me as well. I wondering how he came to that conclusion. I don’t think it would be obvious from archaeological evidence.

  2. There are aspects of the desert, as a natural site, that can transcend the experiential/emotional categories of those who have never visited one before. This situation is made even more ineffable when you are trying to grasp how another culture experienced a desert landscape. You capture this kind of mystery very well in your post Kathryn. It is similar, though not identical to, the mystery that Tohono O’odham experienced when anthropologist Ruth Underhill told them of swimming at the Jersey shore for fun. Not to flag wave for anthropology, this is makes the field so exciting. One tries to com as close as possible to the experiences that cultural “others” take for granted.

  3. This landscape has felt alien to me as well, growing up in Maryland where rivers or the bay influenced most parts of peoples lives. Its certainly been a shock to realize that people could live out in the desert as they did, but it makes sites like Casa Grande all the more impressive.

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