Evolution and Structure of the Classic
Period Marana Community

Suzanne K. Fish, Paul R. Fish, and John H. Madsen

The Marana Community of the early Classic period represents the height of population and organizational complexity in a major segment of the northern Tucson Basin. The final community configuration, emerging from nearly two thousand years of settlement history for desert cultivators, is a relatively short-lived phenomenon of about two centuries from A.D. 1150 to 1350. The centerpiece of a decade of survey, excavation, and analysis is the detailed definition of this community: its settlement components, productive bases, and developmental history.

Centers identified by public architecture and settlements integrated by a community structure are not tangibly and relationally linked by shared canals in the Tucson Basin as in the Phoenix core of the Hohokam territory. Present understanding of the Marana Community is an outcome of the availability of unusually complete settlement patterns on a regional scale. Comprehensive aspects of territorial and societal organization can be most effectively approached only through data of this scope. Hierarchies among sites expressed by size or unique features are of this nature, as are nonhierarchical distributions such as those pertaining to diversified production activities. Recognition of culturally meaningful boundaries in regional settlement also rests on patterns of extensive scale.

Full-coverage survey of more than 350 square kilometers (125 square miles) encompassing the Marana Community (Fig. 1.8) resulted in the identification of more than 700 sites spanning all time periods and thousands of isolated artifacts and scatters. Descriptive summaries of these sites are on file in the Arizona State Museum (Tani and Chapin 1991). Functionally and topographically differentiated segments of the Classic period community include a central site with a platform mound and walled residential compounds, three additional large sites with compounds, habitation sites without compounds, trincheras or hillside terraced sites with both residential and agricultural features, large communal agricultural fields, small agricultural fields, and a variety of specialized activity sites.

Basic patterns of land use, production, and settlement location were established early in the Tucson Basin. Combinations of environmental and agricultural parameters influencing settlement through the Classic period are apparent in the Late Archaic and earliest ceramic occupations (Chapter 2). Yet overlying these more stable configurations of residence and production is an evolution of elaborated cultural expressions and societal organization that progresses in tandem with developments in the Phoenix Basin and other Hohokam subareas. By the Classic period, these trends culminated in mound-centered communities.


Definition of Community

Locational continuities in study area settlement are of a dual character. Sites of all ceramic periods parallel the Santa Cruz River. This concentration includes both sites at the edges of the floodplain itself and those situated on the adjoining lower edge of the bajada. Along the flanks of the Tortolita Mountains, sites and diagnostic artifacts also clearly indicate a second concentration from the earlier ceramic occupations onward. Each concentration appears to have begun with Late Archaic cultivators. Long-standing preferences for particular locales within riverine and mountain flank bands of settlement are demonstrated by numerous multicomponent sites and clusterings of discrete ones.

Although clearly patterned, such environmental correlates of settlement are not adequate bases for defining cultural boundaries in the past; these must be inferred from evidence of tangible distinctions and symbols by which segments of prehistoric populations might have differentiated themselves. Two kinds of settlement attributes have been foremost in defining the Marana Community and other regional units of territorial organization. One is the presence of architectural symbols believed to express prehistoric concepts of hierarchy and integration at preeminent centers within clusters of interrelated settlement. This approach rests upon a model of a fundamentally differentiated central place within concentrically structured geographical and cultural space, repetitions of which occur across a landscape (Christaller 1966; Wright and Johnson 1975; G. Johnson 1977). Prior applications of this approach in Hohokam settlement analyses include the definition of communities along canal networks with one or more centers (Wasley and Johnson 1965; Schroeder 1966; Doyel 1980; Crown 1987; Gregory and Nials 1985), of Preclassic ballcourt communities (Wilcox and Sternberg 1983), and of primary villages (Doelle and others 1987).

The second discriminant of community in this study is the spatial separation of a settlement cluster from other contemporary site aggregates that appear to be equivalent sociopolitical units. Boundaries of communities and the intervening areas, often termed buffer zones, can be reliably confirmed only through systematic survey recording of settlement patterns at sufficiently large scales. Such coverage is similarly essential in demonstrating the primacy or uniqueness of central places within areally extensive settlement arrays and the locational arrangement of these kinds of sites with regard to territorial boundaries.

Preclassic Community Definition

Prior to A.D. 1100, two dispersed site clusters can be recognized in settlement patterns of the Marana study area (Fig. 3.1). One centers on the Santa Cruz floodplain and lower bajada near the end of the Tucson Mountains. Northern outliers include settlements at favorable farming situations on the lower bajada edge for several kilometers north of the mountains. A second upland concentration skirts the Tortolita Mountains. Preclassic sites are grouped on the upper bajada between three large washes. Focal sites for upland and riverine clusters are marked by ballcourts at large sites on the west side of the Santa Cruz and below the Tortolitas. Ballcourts are usually considered communal structures and facilities for competitive sports. It has been suggested (Wilcox 1991) that activities associated with ballcourts served further integrative functions in communities involving mate exchange, craft production, labor procurement, and risk management.

Distributions in Figure 3.1 may most closely approximate settlement in the Late Preclassic interval encompassing the late Colonial (Rillito phase) and early Sedentary (Rincon phase) periods (Fig. 1.2) because diagnostics of these phases predominate at the typically multicomponent habitation sites. However, each of the two clusters has demonstrably earlier roots. Site clusters, including ballcourts, characterize Preclassic settlement distributions in the Tucson Basin as a whole. For example, another riverine ballcourt site is located 17 km (10 miles) to the south (Kelly 1978) and a ballcourt in the next settlement cluster south along the Tortolita Mountains is 19 km (12 miles) distant from its Marana counterpart (Craig and Wallace 1987).

Both Preclassic communities exhibit indications of equally substantial and permanent occupations. Yearround flow in springs and canyons provides domestic water in the upper bajada community. Shallow wells or reservoirs could provide dry season water at the river in stretches of high water table. A range of site sizes and topographic settings in each cluster registers differentiation in functions and productive capacities. Agricultural features constructed of cobbles are present in both upper and lower bajada contexts. The variety of overall artifact classes is duplicated, including ground stone and shell, and vessel forms of all types are present in each. Ballcourts and trash mounds are found at the largest sites.

Classic Community Definition

A reorganization of settlement structure in the northern Tucson Basin occurs in the early Classic period. By the end of Preclassic time, a dynamic element has appeared between the persistent bands of occupation in riverine and mountain edge zones. This new locational orientation is evident in substantial remains covering middle elevations of the bajada (Fig. 3.2). Dense sites of a predominantly specialized nature span the previously unused area separating Preclassic communities. At the same time, terraced occupations on the slopes of the Tucson Mountains supplement long-term farming locations below. Beyond the end of the Tucson Mountains, settlement increases and is extended along the lower edge of the eastern bajada. Where this new settlement ends to the north, a mound center is established near the present town of Marana. Upland and riverine ballcourt centers are replaced by this single mound center that serves as the integrative focus for continuous Classic period settlement between the east and west basin borders.

Classic Community Chronology

The new settlement configuration appears to be a temporally restricted phenomenon of less than 200 years, beginning in the late Rincon phase just prior to the Classic period (Fig. 1.2), becoming fully developed in early Classic times, and terminating prior to the late Classic period as marked by the advent of Salado polychrome

Figure 3.1. Preclassic settlement in the Marana survey area

Figure 3.2. Early Classic period settlement in the Marana survey area.

Figure 3.3. Tanque Verde Red-on-brown ceramics of the early Classic period.

pottery. Rincon phase components in several lower basin sites south of the mound (Czaplicki 1984; Henderson 1987b), occasional Rincon sherds at middle bajada sites, and possibly several late Rincon ceramics at the mound imply that reorganizational trends culminating in the Classic Marana Community may have begun slightly before the Classic period.

The Tanque Verde phase is synonymous with the early Classic period in the Tucson Basin, and Tanque Verde Red-on-brown ceramics (Fig. 3.3) are overwhelmingly predominant among diagnostics from the mound site and middle bajada portion of the community. Intrusive pottery at the Marana mound is chronologically consistent with local ceramic evidence and includes small quantities of Casa Grande Red-on-buff, McDonald Corrugated, Pinedale Black-on-white, San Carlos Smudged, Gila Black-on-red, and Little Colorado White Ware. Among more than 300 diagnostic sherds in collections of isolated artifacts below the Tortolita flanks, all are of Tanque Verde design.

Salado polychrome pottery of a quantity suggesting late Classic components occurs at only five sites in the southernmost portion of the northern Tucson Basin survey area (Fig. 3.4). These sites are outside the Marana Community by its broadest areal definition. Within the Community, such ceramics are represented at two specialized activity sites and by three isolated sherds near the northern end of the Tucson Mountains.

Preclassic to Classic Trajectories

Developmental Models

Previous reconstructions for the early Hohokam sequence in the Tucson Basin have posited entries of agricultural immigrants from the Phoenix core, who initiated succeeding developments according to the tenets of that cultural tradition. Comprehensive settlement data fail to support this assumption (Chapter 1) and instead document a primarily local development, although Pioneer period decorated ceramics may have been acquired

Figure 3.4. Late Classic period settlement in the Marana survey area.

from the Phoenix Basin (Lombard and Fish 1991). At most, these imports account for only a few percent in assemblages of unpainted local wares, and by A.D. 700, a distinctive Tucson decorative style had been established. Additionally, models of riverine-based organization with only minor settlement and use of the bajadas (Grebinger 1971; Doyel 1977) are contradicted by substantial Preclassic occupance in such zones, including ballcourt villages.

Regional settlement chronology of the Tucson Basin further indicates that the Classic period witnessed both continuing population growth and continuing development toward more complex organization. In the study area, Preclassic entities coalesced into a single Classic community of greater scale. Such a trajectory is counter to previous models of the Classic transition as a period of boundary retraction for the Hohokam tradition as a whole (Weaver 1972) and of reversal toward simpler organizational levels (Doyel 1980; Nelson 1981).

Settlement Measures

A comparative measure bearing on organizational complexity that can be derived from regional settlement patterns is the size of integrated area. An increase in area is usually assumed to imply some corresponding increase in integrated population. To the degree that area reflects population, this is a relevant consideration, since complexity is the outcome of relational rather than spatial attributes. However, some independent significance can be claimed for the spatial referent. Larger territories entail greater investment in maintaining integrative functions. Exchange of information and material and communal scheduling require greater effort. Regulatory or coordinating activities must be extended, and spatial costs of acquiring or dispensing benefits are similarly magnified.

The size of integrated territory for the riverine and upland Preclassic communities is similar. Extent along the Santa Cruz approaches 70 square kilometers (27 square miles) and on the Tortolita flanks approximates 57 square kilometers (22 square miles). Boundaries of the Classic period Marana Community enclose more than double these previous sizes, encompassing 146 square kilometers (56 square miles).

Population is notably difficult to estimate through surficial attributes of Hohokam sites because structures are dispersed and pit houses can seldom be tabulated from surface remains. Low ratios of decorated sherds in many site assemblages further hamper efforts to estimate the extent of individual components at multiphase localities. In this study, site area for separate components could be calculated for only a few of the larger sites.

Table 3.1. Comparison of Site Categories for the
Preclassic and Classic Periods

Nevertheless, comparison of site sizes and densities in Figures 3.1 and 3.2 establishes the magnitude of difference between all identified Preclassic sites and those with early Classic diagnostics. The total area of residential function in Preclassic sites is approximately 2,000,000 square meters compared to 6,000,000 square meters of Classic date.

In spite of higher population levels and organizational change in the Classic period, certain characteristics of settlement show continuity with basic Preclassic patterns (Table 3.1). Large, specialized sites (>10,000 square meters) on the middle bajada are Classic innovations. If these sites are excluded from consideration in the nonhabitation category, broad similarities can be seen in the quantitative relationships between nonhabitation and habitation sites of the Preclassic and Classic periods. These similarities likely represent continuity in aspects of land use practices, as reflected in ratios of extractive and agricultural activities to population. For each interval, there are more habitation sites than nonhabitation, partly because ephemeral sites frequently cannot be dated. Both for site numbers and area, the proportion of Preclassic habitation sites is somewhat higher, likely due to the scarcity of early Preclassic diagnostics. However, the average size of nonhabitation sites at about 900 square meters is surprisingly constant from period to period. Similar averages for area of nonhabitation sites in the two periods suggest that there are also continuities in activity group size, arrangements, frequency of reuse, or other factors influencing the size of such sites.

Some distributional measures and environmental correlates of settlement pattern remain constant, but others register responses to changing population and organization. The specialized site type of the middle bajada excluded from the nonhabitation category in the above comparison is associated with novel developments in the Classic settlement pattern. Quantitative measures for such sites are strongly divergent in the late period.Complexes of cobble agricultural features known as rockpile fields (see Chapter 7) proliferate on unused portions of the middle bajada and large fields are constructed for the first time. The ratio between area in these fields and in habitation sites jumps sharply between the Preclassic and Classic periods.


Classic Linkage of Settlement Axes

Although the Marana Mound is a unique Classic period edifice in the study area, additional lines of evidence support a strong integration of the two conjoined axes of Tanque Verde phase settlement. These axes consist of the continuous, well-bounded settlement spanning the eastern bajada and the band of sites paralleling the lower bajada edge and floodplain near the end of the Tucson Mountains (Fig. 3.2). Simultaneous cessation of occupation after the early Classic period in both these axes with different environmental and technological parameters of production suggests interlinked fortunes among all segments of a unified community.

The Santa Cruz floodplain below the Marana Mound at the juncture of the two settlement axes is highly disturbed by modern agriculture. Site identification has been achieved only through multiple attempts at artifact collection under combinations of plowing and irrigation that improved surface visibility. Tanque Verde phase habitation and irrigation in the floodplain north of the Tucson Mountains remain imprecisely known.

A Classic period canal system represents tangible evidence of shared interests between residents in the two axes of Marana Community settlement. The potential existence of such canals was suggested by mapped irrigation lines of the nineteenth century. Historic canals headed in high water tables on the river at the mountain terminus and extended north over 10 km (6 miles) to the vicinity of the mound site (Roskruge 1896a, 1896b). Indications on aerial photographs and preserved stretches of prehistoric berm revealed the parallel course of Classic period alignments (see Fig. 3.2). These canals linked community inhabitants at the central site in the transbajada axis, populations along the river at the intake, and ones at intervening lower bajada locations. The acquiescence if not the active cooperation of riverine inhabitants near canal heads would have been needed by users to the north. At canal end, residents of the mound site were most dependent in this regard. The position of the Marana center parallels the phenomenon of preeminent sites near the ends of several Phoenix networks rather than in locations of direct control at intakes (Upham and Rice 1980: 82; Nicholas and Neitzel 1984: 176; Masse 1981; Gregory and Nials 1985).

Preclassic site clusters are associated with sources of permanent water, in contrast to settlements on the intervening bajada occupied by the early Classic period. Drainages in these locations could have supported seasonal cropping but provide no year-round water. Northernmost Classic settlement on the lower bajada is 10 km (6 miles) from persistent surface water in the river. Canals extending north for this distance appear to have facilitated settlement in areas between the Preclassic concentrations. Progressive expansion from the early riverine community along the lower bajada follows the canal route to the north. Preclassic sites opposite the Tucson Mountains date as early as the Colonial period. In the succeeding Sedentary period, earlier site components precede later ones farther north. From midpoint to end of the canal, settlements are almost exclusively of early Classic date. This temporal succession strongly suggests a correlation between the timing of northward extension of the canals and initial occupations at adjacent sites.

Some means for ensuring domestic water at settlements near the mound would have been necessary, and reservoirs filled by the canals or directed runoff are highly likely. Numerous historic accounts. prior to the late 1800s identify a seasonal source known as Mud Tanks or Desert Wells in the vicinity of Marana (Roskruge 1896a, 1896b). These descriptions may refer to a prehistoric reservoir still retaining water. The reported location would place this feature under currently plowed fields but at an elevation consistent with canal end points. Modern cattle tanks near the mound are constructed to fill from runoff, illustrating another potential water source. Although residents of the mound site must have resolved their needs for domestic supplies, limited seasonal flow in nearby drainages offered secondary potential for floodwater farming compared to lower bajada areas of earlier settlement.

The Marana Mound Site

The Marana platform mound appears today as a rounded adobe mass. Wall alignments are visible on some parts of the upper mound surface (Fig. 3.5). A compound wall around the mound, encompassing 2700 square meters, can still be traced for much of its length on the west, north, and east sides under optimal vegetation conditions. Rooms within the compound courtyard can also be identified.

A mapping and testing program has been initiated to investigate the layout of the mound site, an area of approximately 1,500,000 square meters. Refined mapping

Figure 3.5. The Marana platform mound and surrounding compound.

of dispersed but continuous architectural distributions has substantially increased the area believed to be included within site boundaries over earlier estimates (S. Fish, P Fish, and Madsen 1989). Compound loci, consisting of one to several compounds and adjacent trash mounds, can be identified by surface remains of melted adobe (Fig. 3.6).

In some instances within compounds, low mounded ridges reveal concentrations of rooms, which are built along compound walls and independently in interior positions. Cobbles used in footings and as bondings between adobe courses remain as surface alignments after surrounding adobe has melted, outlining portions of rooms and outer compound walls. Surface structures and, occasionally, pit houses are enclosed within the compounds. A partially excavated compound near the mound is unusually large for Hohokam compounds, enclosing approximately 5500 square meters and containing a minimum of 11 rooms (Fig. 3.7). Trenching to date in several site sectors lacking surface indications of architecture has confirmed an absence of structures outside the compounds.

Figure 3.6. Distribution of adobe architectural remains and trash mounds
associated with residential compounds at the Marana Mound Site.

Figure 3.7. Outlines of compound wall and rooms identified by partial
excavation of a large residential compound at the Marana, Mound Site.

Zonal Patterns

Six zones of settlement are defined within the Classic period Marana Community based on environment, habitation, and evidence for productive activities (Figs. 3.8, 3.9). The first four pertain to the eastern basin slope. Zone 1 sites, including the platform mound, occur in a more or less continuous band along the lower bajada. Coalescing alluvial fans in this zone create an active depositional environment. Abundant sherd, ground stone, and lithic scatters across these fan surfaces correlate with sites of mostly moderate size in a rancheria pattern of dispersed clusters of structures.

The density of Zone 1 settlement is the result of opportunity for floodwater farming in an area receiving runoff from the full expanse of the bajada. Geomorphological studies (Field 1985, Chapter 5 in this volume; Waters and Field 1986) have shown that fan edges and small fans associated with secondary drainages were favored. Easily diverted and controlled flows in small channels would have renewed fields with rich loads of suspended sediment and detritus in the course of supplying water.

The most desirable floodwater farming situations are concentrated in the southern third of Zone 1 (S. Fish 1987a: 236-238). This is the segment with the earliest settlement, predating developments in the Classic period. Later expansion to the north in Zone 1 is almost certainly correlated with dependable domestic water through canal construction, supplying the mound vicinity from the river. Although Zone 1 inhabitants may have realized some agricultural benefits from this canal, topographic placement suggests greatest irrigation potential for fields of floodplain inhabitants in Zone 5 below.

Zone 2 is uphill from the mound and lower bajada sites. Dominant remains in this zone consist of complexes of agricultural features without habitations. Heaps of cobbles, termed "rockpiles," are the prominent feature type, accompanied by low cobble terrace alignments, checkdams, and roasting pits (described in detail in Chapter 7). Over 485 hectares or more than two square miles of large rockpile fields (10 to 50 ha) have been located. A total of 42,000 rockpiles and 120,000 m of linear alignment is estimated for this zone.

Zone 2 fields occur on ridges between secondary drainages on gentle mid-bajada slopes. Broad, flat implements of tabular stone represent 19.2 percent of retouched tools in surface collections. Ethnographically, such "mescal knives" have been used in gathering agave. In all large fields, huge roasting "areas," with maximum dimensions up to 50 m, are processing facilities that have consistently yielded charred agave. Annual crops such as corn were probably attempted only in climatically favorable years in the small drainage bottoms. With less predictable and abundant water than in other zones, drought-adapted agaves provided dependable harvests on this agriculturally marginal land.

A third settlement zone in the middle elevations of the bajada extends to the upper basin slope nearer the foothills of the Tortolitas. A few small sherd, lithic, and ground stone scatters are widely dispersed in a rancheria pattern and located in more favorable situations for water diversion and utilization. Like Zone 2, Zone 3 is characterized by a scarcity of substantial habitation remains and by the occurrence of unique and specialized sites.

Surface scatters of ceramics with few or no other artifact classes comprise the only large Zone 3 sites. Sometimes huge (approaching almost 1.0 km or more than a half mile in length), these sites tend to be linearly arranged along ridge tops. Relatively dense distributions of sherds number as high as the tens of thousands at individual sites. Intensive backhoe trenching at one of the largest revealed no subsurface artifacts or features. Location in abundant stands of saguaro, cacti suggests repetitive and intensive seasonal resource gathering as a probable function of these obviously specialized sites. Rock rings, documented ethnographically as supports for conical baskets in saguaro fruit procurement (Goodyear 1975; Raab 1973), are the only surface features, offering support for this hypothesis. High sherd densities would have been generated over the years by vessels, mostly jars, supplying water for gatherers and fruit processing.

Zone 3 settlement patterns intergrade with a fourth zonal type nearest the mountains and between three major drainages. Unlike the lower zones that are underlain by deep colluvial basin fill, Zone 4 corresponds with mountain pediment where shallow bedrock prevents deep percolation of water originating on the Tortolita slopes. A relatively high and accessible water table is therefore maintained in the drainages. Large and small habitation sites in this zone undoubtedly reflect the availability of water. Both the three major drainages and secondary ones appear to have supported cultivation. Agricultural features such as terraces, rockpiles, and checkdams, occur in substantial numbers in Zone 4 in conjunction with large and small sites, but never independently of adjoining habitation as in Zone 2.

The largest Zone 4 sites (a few approach or exceed one square kilometer) are found on ridges overlooking the floodplains of Derrio Wash and Cottonwood Wash. Structural remains include a number of architectural forms: compounds enclosing mounded adobe from substantial structures, cobble outlines of contiguous rooms, isolated cobble-outlined structures, and dry-laid masonry structures.

Figure 3.8. Idealized basin cross section, showing zonal divisions of the Marana Community.

Figure 3.9. Zonal divisions of the Marana Community.

The floodplain and terraces of the Santa Cruz River constitute Zone 5. From the southern boundary of the study area to the end of the Tucson Mountains, the river channel and floodplain are concisely delimited. Igneous intrusions near the end of the mountains force underground flow to the surface, creating an elevated water table and more persistent surface water. Large and small sites of all periods occur on both sides of the river as it parallels the mountains. Irrigation from the river imparted the most concentrated productive capacity to this area. Two of the largest sites with the longest settlement histories in the community, Los Morteros and the Huntington Site, are located on either side of the mountain terminus. To the north, surface flow in the river is more infrequent and the floodplain broadens substantially. Maximum site size appears to be smaller and overall site densities reduced.

The highly foreshortened bajada between the Tucson Mountains and the Santa Cruz compresses the succession of zonal topography compared to that on the eastern bajada. A few sites at the western floodplain edge seem oriented toward floodwater situations. Riverine canals undoubtedly account for the denser populations and consistently preferred locales.

The Tucson Mountains define Zone 6. In the study area, they form a low chain of less than 130 m (400 feet) in elevation above the floodplain. Dark volcanic hills are covered with a variety of cacti and leguminous trees, providing immediate access to upper bajada resources for inhabitants of the river edge.

Trincheras sites, characterized by terraces and walls of dry-laid masonry, occur on Tucson Mountain hill slopes (Wallace 1983). The largest concentration of these features is immediately above the largest riverine site of Los Morteros, along the western edge of the Santa Cruz (Figs. 1.8, 3.2). Some of the 250 terraces in this trincheras site (Fig. 3.10) yielded evidence of agricultural function, and excavated pit houses (Fig. 3.11) in several other terraces have all the appearances of permanent habitations (S. Fish, R Fish, and Downum 1984; Downum 1986). A cobble-outlined compound and a few masonry surface structures are also present. A single radiocarbon date and the design treatment on Tanque Verde phase ceramics suggest that some features of the trincheras site date to the latest interval of Marana Community occupation, although still predating the late Classic period advent of Salado polychromes.


Economic implications of the coalescence of the Preclassic ballcourt communities are illuminated by a body of data concerning environmental diversity, productive specialization, and increasing population, particularly in agriculturally marginal areas. Locations of the Preclassic communities entailed reciprocal environmental hazards: storms that flooded riverine zones might ensure bountiful upland harvests, whereas rains posing no floodplain threat might be insufficient for good harvests above (Lightfoot and Plog 1984; Abruzzi 1989). A strategy of diversification of efforts at various societal levels was followed historically by many Southwestern groups to counteract such localized environmental threats. In the Marana Classic period reorganization, diversification was shifted above the level of individual households, villages, and zones to include the broader productive spectrum of the enlarged community. Localized risks were diffused to the extent that fortunes were shared and resources circulated within the larger entity.

The specialization apparent in the scale of rockpile fields may well portend complementary processes that are more subtly expressed in the archaeological record. Specialization to maximize returns or to minimize individual risks, as in an emphasis on drought-resistant agave, simultaneously heightens the need for exchange. Classic settlement and dense populations expanding beyond earlier topographic concentrations probably were viable only in a differentiated and well-integrated economic context.

Data concerning productive activities in the Classic period Marana Community illustrate horizontal differentiation of an economic nature, but with likely implications for other social spheres. Entrepreneurial opportunities and managerial requirements may have been fostered under such conditions. Conversely, the coordination of differentiated or specialized components is a key function of elevated social roles and institutions.

Subsistence Specialization

The strength of the argument for a differentiated subsistence economy in the Marana Community derives from access to a regional perspective. Diversity in zonal resources and opportunities can be related to economic organization in that it can be shown to occur within a single, integrated territorial and sociopolitical unit. However, a degree of extractive redundancy would have existed across a community encompassing riparian, creosote bush-bursage, and palo verde-saguaro vegetation associations with highly overlapping species. Similarly, a basic suite of cultigens undoubtedly was grown by means of riverine irrigation, floodwater farming, and slope runoff. Nevertheless, zonal patterns document differing magnitudes, emphases, and organization of subsistence production across the different segments and correspond to differential risks and benefits for gatherers and cultivators (Chapter 4).

Figure 3.10. Terraces and other masonry features at the largest
Tucson Mountain trincheras site in the Marana Community.

Figure 3.11. Plan and cross section of an excavated pit house
on a trincheras site terrace in the Marana Community.

Each of the defined zones subsume finer environmental variation. Excavations at six Zone 1 loci south of the mound (Henderson 1987a; G. Rice 1987a) supplement insights derived from settlement patterns. Artifacts, facilities, and botanical remains suggest that residents of settlements with differing floodwater potential for annual crops counterbalanced these lesser opportunities by emphasizing agave from Zone 2 fields, or by more intensively gathering resources such as cacti. Some patterns have no obvious environmental correlates and seem to represent economic choice (S. Fish 1987a). To the extent that evidence for production and consumption could be discriminated (S. Fish and Donaldson 1991), circulation of differentially emphasized products appears to have broadened and homogenized consumption at individual Zone 1 settlements.

The most compelling data for subsistence specialization are a class of agricultural remains unequivocally linked to production. Large-scale agave cultivation in Zone 2 occurs in close tandem with temporal and spatial parameters of early Classic expansion. Within this milieu, the emphasis on rockpile fields seems best understood in the light of secondary floodwater land and higher population densities at the new mound center and nearby settlements initiated at the beginning of the Classic period. Only the densely settled inhabitants of northernmost Zone 1 near the mound specialized to a degree that covered middle bajada slopes with thousands of stone features (Fig. 3.9).

Nonsubsistence Specialization

Nonsubsistence specialization is currently documented only in broad strokes for the Marana Community. Small habitation sites in Zone 1 provide excavated data that as yet lack a comparative framework from other community segments. Craft specialization need not have coincided with locations of raw material production or procurement, although dense populations with poorer agricultural land, as at the Mound, might have found it desirable to engage in all phases of manufacture. Artifacts used in processing agave fiber and making fiber products are prominent at the six excavated Zone 1 sites. Estimated yields from Zone 2 fields (Chapter 7; S. Fish, R Fish, Miksicek, and Madsen 1985: 112) likely surpassed the consumptive needs of the growers and provided conveniently portable items for exchange.

Evidence for ceramic and shell craft activities was relatively widespread in Zone 1 excavations (Kisselberg 1987; G. Rice 1987a). Residues of other manufacturing activities were more localized. Nearly two-thirds of all turquoise, including unworked pieces, was encountered in one site and mostly in a single structure. Only finished red stone jewelry is reported from the six excavated sites. Stylistically identical items have been recovered in one compound locus at the Mound site, where surface collections also contain plentiful manufacturing debris. Artisans at the community center apparently shaped ornaments for consumers at other sites.

Obsidian occurs sporadically in survey collections throughout the community. However, nearly 80 percent of all excavated Zone 1 obsidian was from a pit cache that included partially flaked nodules and flakes (G. Rice 1987b: 136). Contents of the adjacent large pit house at the site were also unusual (James 1987). Multiple bighorn sheep skulls and horn cores may represent hunting disguises or ceremonial garb. Pelves of 18 deer and big horn sheep are further anomalies among faunal assemblages that were otherwise dominated by lagomorphs.

As with subsistence, part of the basis for nonsubsistence specialization is localized opportunity. Lithic sources with signs of prehistoric quarrying have been identified for ground stone raw materials: tabularfracturing stone for knives; fine-grained rhyolites, andesites, and metamorphosed limestone for chipped artifacts; and a cryptocrystalline series including jasper and agates. With the exception of one rhyolite type, these sources are in the largely volcanic Tucson Mountains on the west rather than in the predominantly granitic Tortolitas on the east. Even with this variety of community sources, preference is shown in some common utilitarian artifact classes for raw materials originating elsewhere in the Tucson Basin. Formal ground stone and tabular knives are commonly of stone quarried near Cerro Prieto in the Robles Community (Fig. 1.8), 30 km (18.5 miles) west of the Mound.

Circulated raw materials and finished products constitute an important fraction of everyday equipment for Marana residents. Manufacturing debris for tabular knives and ground stone is plentiful near the external quarry sources but absent within the community, suggesting importation of finished products through trade. By contrast, quarried chipping stone from west of the Santa Cruz River was made into tools throughout the community. These lithic types account for 30 percent or more of assemblages in an analyzed sample of Tortolita bajada sites. The abundance of circulated items implies economic differentiation on the part of suppliers near the sources and consumers elsewhere, who likely offered some form of exchangeable surplus.


Settlement Patterns

Vertical differentiation in the Marana Community can be systematically approached from the perspective of settlement pattern (G. Johnson 1977; Kowalewski and others 1983; Steponaitis 1981). In this study, site hierarchy combines criteria of size and certain categories of unequally distributed architectural and artifactual remains. Since difficulties in separating components may affect estimates of site size and occupational intensities may not be uniform over time, these additional attributes are fortunate complements. The two bases for ranking discriminate among sites in a similar manner.

The distribution of site areas in square meters is presented in Figure 3.12. This compilation is based only on habitation area and only on sites of known Classic period affiliation; areas of agricultural function adjoining residential sites and specialized activity sites are not included. Components have been separated for large riverine settlements. Three size classes appear significant. Over three-fourths of the sites are under 100,000 square meters, with most less than 50,000 square meters. Small sites without diagnostics would increase this proportion. An intermediate class from 150,000 to 350,000 square meters contains 15 percent of the habitation sites. Only 7 percent or four sites exceed 350,000 square meters, and these are of a clearly distinctive magnitude between 550,000 and 1,500,000 square meters.

Figure 3.12. Histogram of habitation site sizes in the
Marana Community. Classes defined on the basis of site
size are correlated with differential distributions of
architecture and decorated ceramics.

Architectural Distributions

Architectural indications are absent on the surface of sites in the smallest size class. Excavated sites of this class in Zone 1 contained adobe surface structures as well as pit houses. Floor area and contents of the two kinds of structures did not reveal consistent differences between assemblages or functions. Small habitation sites occur throughout the community.

Only two sites in the intermediate size class lack visible structural stone. In most of the remaining cases, structures incorporating cobbles as additions to coursed adobe appear to represent a minor fraction of residential units among more abundant pit houses or other types of surface structures. Sites of this intermediate size range occur in all zones of denser habitation, and utilization of cobbles in construction cannot be explained by the differential availability of stone. Cobble outlines that have eroded in place from substantial adobe walls of both isolated and contiguous rooms account for almost all the structural stone. Low walls of dry-laid masonry, again for single and multiple rooms, are found at a single upper bajada site.

The four sites larger than 500,000 square meters occur in zones of denser habitation along with the preceding size class. Two of these sites, Los Morteros and the Huntington Site, are near the end of the Tucson Mountains where irrigation could support many people. A third site overlooks one of the largest upper bajada drainages. The Marana Mound Site is the fourth, constituting the largest early Classic period settlement. These four sites are unique in containing compounds in addition to the cobble-outlined structures previously described.

Compounds are not equally distributed among the four sites, although precise numbers at each are not known. On the upper bajada, preservation of surface remains is so comprehensive that the presence of a single compound seems certain. Maximum counts are not possible at the riverine sites, but from two to five compounds seem likely. At the Marana Mound Site (Fig. 3.6) there are multiple clusters of adobe architectural remains, some containing more than one compound. If compounds equate with elite residence, elites are clearly concentrated at the central site. If compounds reflect localization of craft activities, storage, stockpiling, or other specialized functions, these are similarly clustered.

Ceramic Assemblages

Ceramic assemblages provide a third measure of site hierarchy. Consumption of higher value items can be contrasted among sites by comparing proportions of decorated to plain pottery in surface collections. The presence of multiple components at most large habitation sites weakens this comparison as a measure of inequalities solely during the Classic period. However, occupation of the Mound site was limited to the early Classic period, and comparative assemblages from the two largest riverine settlements were collected in site areas with the best segregation of the Classic period component. Decorated sherds at the Mound site, the two largest riverine sites, and the upper bajada compound site exceed proportions at all other settlements. Intermediate and small sites consistently contain less than five percent.

Imported types of Classic period date are virtually nonexistent in surface collections from the two smaller size classes (I and II), a rarity reinforced by recovery from Zone I small-site excavations. The four compound sites of size Class III are distinguished by multiple nonlocal wares. Other infrequent high-cost items are less easily quantified from surface collections but seem most closely associated with these compound sites.


A case has been made for a three-tiered settlement hierarchy based on site size, architecture, and ceramics. More than three-fourths of all sites fall into a "small" category. Surface indications of structures occur at a small number of intermediate-sized sites. The largest sites set apart by compounds and differential ceramic consumption represent a still smaller settlement fraction. The mound at one of these compound sites is the ultimate symbol of community integration, sociopolitical hierarchy, or both.

Cumulative evidence for vertical differentiation in the Marana Community is internally consistent and convincing. The resulting hierarchical structure could have been socially generated in more than one way. The institutional framework of community integration and the social personae corresponding to evidence for inequalities in settlement, architecture, and consumption of higher value goods are the missing pieces of the puzzle of organizational character and complexity. In contrast to Puebloan cultures of the northern Southwest, the nature of Hohokam institutions is not illuminated by ethnographic continuity in highly relevant spheres or by even early historic observations. Piman analogs are absent for mounds, compounds, and settlement hierarchy among the Hohokam.

Construction of the Marana Mound in a geographically central location (Fig. 3.2) would seem to indicate communal concern with an edifice that symbolized the integration of the expanded Classic period boundaries. The Mound was situated not among long-term populations in favorable riverine or upper bajada locales, but in a recently settled and agriculturally marginal area. Separation of the Classic mound from Preclassic ballcourt centers signals a divergence from prior organizational bases and, inferentially, from traditional sources of local authority, such as established kinship lines and land tenure. The placement of compounds reenforces the appearance of societal realignment. The location of the Mound center was not previously occupied. Where riverine settlement was continuous from the Preclassic into the Classic period, compounds were built at a distance from the earlier ballcourt.

The significance of the Marana Mound in Classic period societal organization is unclear. As the most imposing and visible product of collective effort, a strong association with community identity is likely. Religious observances apparently were centered here. An additional referent of the mound, unlike ballcourts, is the exclusivity of activities, precincts, and personnel enclosed by a massive adobe wall. Enclosures similarly demarcate groups occupying other compounds, whose institutional roles are also presently obscure.

Several lines of evidence suggest a close relationship between resource circulation and hierarchical structure in the Marana Community. Routine use of nonlocal raw materials and a degree of specialized subsistence production would have created a widespread base for exchange. Geographic centrality of the mound site would have represented an advantage for performers or regulators of transport and communication in the surrounding community. As densely settled, specialized producers with arable land of secondary quality, compound dwellers at the Mound had high stakes in a comprehensive and dependable system of exchange. The correlation of nonlocal ceramics with compound sites suggests additional roles in long distance trade. Glen Rice (1987c) has proposed Marana Community exchange as redistribution in a chiefdom context. However, no evidence as yet contradicts additional possibilities of periodic marketlike transactions, ritually organized exchange among relatively equal social units as in the pueblos (Ford 1, or multiple forms of exchange according to resource type.


Identifiable habitation ceases by about A.D. 1350 throughout the early Classic period Marana Community (Fig. 3.4), a segment of the northern Tucson Basin continuously inhabited since before the beginning of the Hohokam sequence. The abandonment appears generally synchronous as measured with the low resolution of Hohokam ceramic phases. Salado polychromes, the markers for the transition from the Tanque Verde to the following late Classic Tucson phase, are exceedingly rare and virtually absent from contexts of probable residence.

An environmental trigger for this abandonment is not apparent. Locally derived environmental sequences are unavailable for the Tucson Basin. In a reconstruction from tree-ring records above the Mogollon Rim by Graybill (1989), summer precipitation, the critical factor in Tucson agricultural production, was found to be surprisingly complacent between A.D. 750 and 1350. Irreparable, systemic disruptions of the Salt River canals are posited at about A.D. 1350 (Nials, Gregory, and Graybill 1989) due to a flood of unusual magnitude that caused changes in channel structure in the vicinity of Phoenix intakes. The morphology and seasonal flow regime of the Santa Cruz River is unlike that of the Salt River, but even if Tucson flood damage had coincided with hypothesized Phoenix events, occupation and production could have continued in the long-standing mountain flank settlements. A separate Preclassic community demonstrated the independent viability of upper bajada zones. The diversity of agricultural production in the Marana Community further implies that residential populations could have persisted in some locations under any conceivable environmental scenarios. Nevertheless, a consensus for abandonment was reached by all inhabitants. In this sense, abandonment can be viewed as a social as well as an economic choice among a large population whose vital interconnections are emphasized by such joint action.

The abandonment phenomenon of the later Tanque Verde phase is of a truly regional scale and involves more than the Marana Community. Residential occupations in the late Classic period are absent in an area of approximately 1300 square kilometers (500 square miles) between the confluence of the Caņada del Oro and the Santa Cruz River and the southern edge of the Picacho Mountains 44 km (27 miles) to the north (Fig. 1.8). Continuing occupations both to the north and to the south are marked by Salado polychromes. Barring catastrophic population loss, it is reasonable to assume that inhabitants of the abandoned portion of the northern Tucson Basin were incorporated into these late Classic period settlement concentrations. Later Classic settlements to the south occur in situations with high potential for agricultural intensification along stretches of intermittent water courses with sustained flow and along ephemeral drainages with vast watersheds to the north. Productive capacities must have been sufficient to absorb the increased labor force as well as to satisfy the additional consumptive demands. Large, late Classic sites in these areas exhibit surface remains suggesting the highest residential densities for any period and the greatest investment in public architecture of presumed integrative function. A corollary of increasing aggregation is the development of social structures capable of integrating significant numbers of immigrants.


Settlement organization in the Marana Community reflects trends within the greater Hohokam tradition and refines knowledge of the variability within those larger developments. Just as ceramic styles progress in broad tandem, so do stylistic aspects of social differentiation and hierarchy. The ballcourt-to-platform mound transition in the Tucson area generally parallels but also shows divergences from Salt-Gila sequences. Organizational and spatial realignment between Preclassic ballcourt communities and mound-centered entities (Wilcox and Sternberg 1983) occurs in the northern Tucson Basin as elsewhere. However, unlike the Phoenix core area (Gregory 1987, 1991), no formal arrangements are found between early Classic period mounds and ballcourts in the Tucson regional context. In fact, ballcourts and mounds do not cooccur at any site. Tucson Basin arrangements appear to reflect differential applications of the tenets of public architecture and perhaps also of the underlying ideology, rather than temporal variation in the dates of construction.

Hohokam communities in regions lacking the massive irrigation systems of the core cannot be explained by interactions surrounding shared canal use, nor are settlement expressions of community necessarily isomorphic. Classic period communities in the core cover smaller areas, as calculated by an average 5-km spacing between mound sites along canals (Chapter 8; Gregory and Nials 1985; Gregory 1987). They also appear to contain denser populations and are more closely packed. The Marana Community, by contrast, is expansive in terms of population and settlement and is environmentally more diverse. With less irrigable land in the northern Tucson Basin, a substantially larger territory would be required to support populations of a given size than in the Phoenix core.

The Marana Community adds regional substance and detail to broader Hohokam issues. An economic base has been documented for populations of sufficient size and prosperity to support organizational structures resembling those of the large-scale irrigators along perennial rivers. Levels of productive specialization and some consumption patterns have been demonstrated that are commensurate with a strong and integral network of exchange. Regional settlement data have provided quantified distributions for components of horizontal and vertical differentiation. These are the building blocks for understanding Hohokam regions and interregional interactions.

Next: Chapter 4 | Previous: Chapter 2

UAP Online Books  |  UAP Home Page

The University of Arizona Press, 2/10/01 5:03PM