Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pueblo Grande Hohokam Ruins in Phoenix

Pueblo Grande is a large Hohokam ruins site located in the central area of Phoenix, Arizona. There is a one third mile trail that tours a platform mound, the most significant structure. The address for this urban site is 4619 East Washington Street. It is near the northeast side of the Sky Harbor Airport. In 2011 there is a $6 admission charge.
The Hohokam are famous for their extensive network of canals. The Pueblo Grande site is at the head works of part of this system. Water was diverted from the Salt River into an irrigation system feeding thousands of acres of farming fields

The paved trail leads up on top of the sandy beige colored structure where there are views of some of the excavated rooms. This adobe type construction site contrasts with extensive stonework ruins sites in the other areas of the Four Corners region. The platform mound is thought to be a ceremonial and administrative center rather than a place where residents lived.

There are interpretive signs along the trail describing some of the history of the site and comments on what was found here and offering some possible interpretations. An adobe wall three feet thick and eight feet high surrounds the platform mound. The wet mud and caliche material was applied in courses rather than as mud bricks. In the 1300s the platform mound was nearly 25 feet high.

The overall site once extended to the north for more than a mile. There were many small residential compounds and other structures. The platform mound may have started as two separate mounds that eventually grew together. The main period of use was from 1150 to 1450 AD.

On the north side of the platform mound, there are some replica adobe compounds from 1300 AD and pithouse structures from 950 AD. A wood frame was made from mesquite or cottonwood trees and the spaces filled with branches or saguaro cactus ribs.

An Adobe mud plaster covered the wooden frame. One of these replicates can be entered and there are replicate artifacts arranged for easy viewing. These replicate structures are taller than the originals with large doors for our convenience.

Near the end of the trail is a ball court. The court is 82 feet long and 38 feet wide. The interpretive information says that this is one of the few that have been excavated of the 200 or so that have been located in the southwest.

This court is thought to have been used between 750 and 1200 AD. It seems odd that the ball court use ended in 1200 while the overall site continued to be used until 1450. In the vicinity of the ball court, there are some example Hohokam gardens and some of the desert plants like Ocotillo, Screwbean Mesquite, and Chainfruit Cholla are identified.

There are interpretive museum displays at the Pueblo Grande site. One that I found interesting was the large map of the 1000 miles of Hohokam canals and the irrigation system. The map shows many other related ruins sites in the area along the Salt River. Outside the museum the American Society of Civil Engineers has erected a plaque commemorating the canal system as an Historic Civil Public Works Project. There is also a theater with a 10 minute video of Pueblo Grande and the Hohokam.

I visited on a 95 F early September afternoon. My tour took about 1.5 hours and there were only a few others here during my visit. The ruins viewing was very calm in the midst of busy nearby freeways and airport.

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1 comment:

Pueblo Grande Museum said...

That was a great overview of our site! Lovely pictures as well. Thank you for sharing your experience with others and spreading the word about the Hohokam and Pueblo Grande Museum. :)