picture of cover

Hohokam Indians of the
Tucson Basin

By Linda M. Gregonis & Karl J. Reinhard


Until the spring of 1979, visitors to Tucson and the city's residents had little opportunity to learn about the "earliest Tucsonans"-the prehistoric Hohokam-even though much of the Tucson area had been occupied for many centuries by the Hohokam. This booklet and an exhibit at Fort Lowell Park in Tucson have been prepared to help interpret the lifeway of these early desert people.

The Arizona State Museum and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Arizona had conducted archaeological research in the Tucson Basin-that area encompassed by the mountains around the city of Tucson-for many years. However, no special effort was made to inform the public about the Hohokam. In 1975, a concerned amateur archaeologist called the museum to report that Hohokam pottery and tools had been exposed during construction at Fort Lowell Park, a Pima County park in the northeast part of the city. Archaeologists at the museum were aware that a large Hohokam village had once existed along Rillito Creek in the vicinity of the park, and that installation of park facilities on several occasions had unearthed prehistoric remains. The new area reported was unique, however, because it had been private property and had only recently been purchased by the Pima County Parks and Recreation Department for expansion of Fort Lowell Park. A reconnaissance of the property showed that several zones contained deep, undisturbed deposits of Hohokam material. This large Hohokam village was designated as the Hardy Site.

When it was learned that this area would be developed eventually by the county for public use, the concept emerged of an interpretive exhibit in the park on the Tucson Basin Hohokam. This seemed appropriate, as the park already contained an interpretive unit on the military establishment of Fort Lowell in the late nineteenth century. This military use and the Hohokam occupation, which extended back to at least A.D. 500, made this location one of the oldest and longest occupied areas in Tucson.

The Arizona State Museum assumed responsibility for developing this concept and, from the beginning, received strong support and assistance from Pima County Parks and Recreation. A planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities enabled museum staff to carry out background research for the exhibit, and a subsequent implementation grant from NEH provided for additional research, development of a display in the Fort Lowell Museum, installation of an outdoor exhibit, and preparation of this booklet. The outdoor exhibit required excavation of a portion of the Hardy Site, and this work was conducted over a two-year period on weekends by students from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Arizona, and by a number of dedicated local amateur archaeologists.

When the exhibit opened in April, 1979, a number of important things had been accomplished. Interpretive panels installed at the site and artifacts displayed at the Fort Lowell Museum provided an opportunity for the public to learn how the Hohokam adapted to and made a living in the Tucson desert environment more than a thousand years ago. The panels and display also illustrated the many ways in which the Hohokam artistically enriched their lives. Public involvement in the preservation of Arizona's cultural heritage has also been achieved. Throughout the period of excavation, anyone who wished to observe or participate in the archaeological work was encouraged to do so. This experience helped many to understand the need for conserving archaeological sites and the importance of careful excavation and analysis. Finally, work at the site provided valuable training for a number of students and produced important new information on the Tucson Basin Hohokam. A final technical report on the results of the excavation is currently in preparation.

When plans were being developed for the public interpretive exhibit on the Tucson Basin Hohokam, it became apparent that, in addition to the outdoor exhibit panels and the display at the Fort Lowell Museum, a good synthesis of the Tucson Basin Hohokam was necessary for a more complete understanding of these people. This booklet has been prepared to fill the need for a layman's guide to the Hohokam archaeology of the Tucson Basin area. It is designed to provide basic information on the Hohokam and, at the same time, make these past desert dwellers more "real" by recreating as accurately as possible much of the daily routine of their lives. The booklet is best used in conjunction with visits to the outdoor exhibit at Fort Lowell Park, the Fort Lowell Museum, and the Arizona State Museum. The outdoor exhibit provides a certain "feel" for the natural environment and lifeway of the Hohokam; the Fort Lowell Museum contains artifactual materials, recovered from excavations at the Hardy Site; and the Arizona State Museum has a series of exhibits that portray the Hohokam culture as a major lifeway of the southern Arizona desert.

As project director, I have had the pleasure of working with a great many dedicated people in helping to interpret the prehistory of the Tucson Basin Hohokam. Linda Gregonis, Karl Reinhard, the staffs of the Pima County Parks and Recreation Department and the Arizona State Museum, many students, and others, all share in the success of our goal to bring the Tucson Basin Hohokam to life.

Associate Director
Arizona State Mu.seum

pots and things

Copyright © 1979. The Arizona Board of Regents.

|UAP Home Page|Title Page|Acknowledgements|Chapter 1|Chapter 2|Chapter 3|Glossary|Bibliography|

The University of Arizona Press, 3/2/97 2:03PM