ATH 242-01

Hohokam & Anasazi

Village Life

  • after Archaic period, 3 primary cultures
    • Hohokam (AD 300-1500)
    • Anasazi (AD 1-present)
    • Mogollon (BC 250 – AD 1450)

Southwestern Agriculture

  • derived from Mesoamerica
  • Upper Sonoran Agricultural Complex (“3 Sisters”: maize, beans, squash)
  • Domesticated in Mexico as early as 5000 BC but adopted much later in the SW
  • adopted when conditions when favorable


  • Maize (Zea Mays, 1500 BC)
    • Teosinte; Mesoamerica
    • High in calories, low in protein
  • Squash (1000 BC)
    • high in tryptophan
  • Beans (500 BC)
    • high in lysines
  • other plants (e.g. cotton) available later

Consequences of Agriculture

  • Low calorie yield, but predictable
  • Low dietary value, but reliable
  • a single species is not enough
  • dependent on seasonal/annual climate
  • agriculture is a one-way street

Other considerations

  • well-suited to the SW
  • 2 crops annually plant Mar harvest June, plant Jul, harvest Sep
  • requires buffering mechanisms

Hohokam culture

  • “Those who are gone” in Pima Indian language
  • concentrated in the Gila and Salt River drainages of S. AZ
  • worked hard at agriculture

Snaketown – Hohokam multi-component site

canals for irrigation (not initially)

irrigation communities

Ulama game @ ballcourts

Later Hohokam periods

  • platform mounds are built
  • a few Great Houses are built (Casa Grande)
  • highly visible, Mesoamerican-influenced lifestyle

The End of Hohokam

  • abandon Mesoamerican-influenced lifestyle
  • simpler, agricultural-based lifestyle
  • unusually high river flows (1350-1450 AD)
  • culture disappeared before Europeans appeared

Anasazi -Chaco Canyon

Early Anasazi culture

  • Maize and squash
  • some hunting and gathering
  • Pithouses are in use as structures
  • baskets and oxidized pottery
  • atlatl, rabbit fur blankets, yucca fiber sandals

Later Anasazi culture

  • pithouses and structures used
  • masonry becomes common
  • Great Houses appear
  • Chaco Canyon emerges as center of activity

Great houses of Chaco Canyon (evenly-spaced throughout): Pueblo Bonito, Penasco Blanco, Una Vida

  • Great Houses expand and reach their peak 1050-1300 AD
  • large, multi-storied structures
  • average of 288 rooms
  • up to 5 stories tall

Pueblo Bonito (800 rooms)

Chetro Ketl (500 rooms)

Pueblo del Arroya (285 rooms)

Other Developments

  • Great Kivas built
    • some as big as 60′ diam.
    • mostly subterranean with antechambers
    • isolated Great Kivas built
  • outlying communities built that mimic Chacoan architecture
    • linked to Chaco by roads

Chacoan roads (over 400 mi)

  • peak coincides with rise of Great Kivas
  • straight lines, ignored topography
  • some are narrow, others 30′ wide
  • lead to both large and small outliers
  • The Great North Road

Chacoan elites?

  • construction could be accomplished by small groups over time
  • construction proceeded rapidly over a few years
  • does Chacoan settlement indicate a regional socio-political system?
  • burial data evidence

Mesoamerican connections

  • Mexican traders @ Pueblo Bonito?
  • What would Chaco have to offer?
  • evidence of contact:
    • cylindrical vases
    • turquoise
    • copper bells
    • macaws and parrots

Macaw skeleton, sash of macaw feathers

Why did Chacoan system fail?

  • explanation one:
    • perhaps the leadership lost power base
    • other leaders seized this oppty and drew people to new centers
    • climate change meant moving to San Juan river
  • explanation two:
    • leadership managed crises successfully
    • followers turned into subject; clients into retainers
    • political competition resolved; San Juan becomes new arena

Abandonment of Chaco Canyon

  • drought AD 1130-1180
  • catastrophic drought conditions; Chaco Canyon abandoned in AD 1140
  • by AD 1200 peripheries made a comeback
  • Chaco Canyon eventually reoccupied by Anasazi from Mesa Verde

Anasazi abandonment

  • Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, Kayenta drainage are abandoned by AD 1300
  • general movement to SW, S, SE
  • complete abandonment of the area in question

Why abandonment?

  • Great Drought of AD 1276-1299
  • may not have been as severe as originally believed, Mesa Verde viable
  • lower areas – drought; higher areas – cooler temperatures
  • new ideas pulled people to the South
  • warfare made it too difficult to live in Anasazi territory

Pueblo abandonment

  • traditionally, Anasazi dealt with rainfall variablility through buffering mechanisms
    • farming large areas
    • wild plant foods
    • redistribution
    • storage
    • moving as a last resort
  • these mechanisms worked except when environment reached carrying capacity

Modern Anasazi Descendants

  • Tewa
  • San Ildefonso
  • Isleta
  • Cochiti Keres
  • Hopi
  • Zuni
  • Acoma
  • and many others
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