picture of cover

Hohokam Indians of the
Tucson Basin

By Linda M. Gregonis & Karl J. Reinhard


Agave (Agave sp.)-sometimes called a century plant. Several species of the plant were used by Indians in the Southwest and Mexico. The plants vary greatly in size, but are characterized by a cluster of leaves spreading out at ground level from a short central stem. The narrow leaves are long and thick and terminate in a spine. At maturity, each plant sends up one long flowering stalk and then dies. Agaves grow at elevations of 3000 to 8000 feet. Species of agave are used in the manufacture of pulque and tequila, alcoholic beverages popular in Mexico. Raw agave is poisonous.

Anasazi-the prehistoric peoples who occupied parts of a region extending from southwestern Nevada on the west to the edge of the Great Plains in New Mexico and Colorado on the east, and from northeastem Utah and northwestem Colorado on the north, to central New Mexico and the Little Colorado River in Arizona on the south. Remains of the Anasazi culture include the ruins at Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, Canyon de Chelly, and the Navajo National Monument. Like the Hohokam, the Anasazi developed out of an Archaic tradition to become sedentary farmers. The Anasazi lifeway first emerged around the time of Christ. The first Anasazi are known as Basketmakers. The lifeway continues today in the New Mexican pueblos and Hopi villages.

Archaeomagnetic dating-a method of dabng based on the wandering of the earth's magnetic north pole. When the clay-lined hearths used by the Hohokam were heated, minute magnetic particles in the clays realigned themselves with magnetic north. Through a process that involves careful testing of collected samples of hearths with a magnetometer, the date of a given hearth can be determined.

Argillite-fine-grained, metamorphosed mud and claystone. The deep-red-colored argillite artifacts found at the Hardy Site may have come from the Mazatzal Mountains in central Arizona.

Arrow weed (Pluchea servicea)-a rank-smelling shrub that forms dense thickets in stream beds and moist saline soil. The plant occurs at elevations of 3000 feet or lower, from Texas to southem California and from Utah to northern Mexico. In addition to its use as a wall-covering material, arrow weed stems were used for arrow shafts by Indians in the Southwest.

Basin and Range Province-a geographic area extending from southern Oregon and Idaho to northern Mexico, and including most of western Arizona, the Great Basin of Utah and Nevada, and parts of eastern California. It is an area characterized by north-south trending mountain ranges interspersed by flat basins. The area was formed initially through block faulting during Tertiary times (15-20 million years ago), when, in a series of earthquakes, one section of land was lifted while the adjacent portion was lowered.

Bear grass (Nolina microcarpa)-also called sacahuista. Resembling clumps of large, coarse grass, this plant is found on mountain slopes around the Tucson Basin at elevations of 3000 to 6000 feet.

Caliche-deposits of calcium carbonate that occur as the substrata throughout much of the Tucson Basin. Caliche occurs as irregular, impervious layers a fraction of an inch to several feet in thickness, or as the matrix in a sand and gravel conglomerate. The formation of caliche is an ongoing process. Many of the pottery sherds and pieces of stone tools found at the Hardy Site were covered with caliche.

Cholla (Opuntia sp.)-several species of spiny cactus having cylindrical stems and branches. The plants are found in many parts of semiarid and arid North America.

Desert Archaic Tradition-a seminomadic, hunting and gathering way of life that people in the Southwest adopted around 7000 B.C. The tradition is also known in Arizona as the Cochise, Amargosan, or Desert culture. The Desert Archaic lifeway was widespread, extending into the Great Basin of Utah and Nevada and the Mohave Desert of California. Although the Archaic lifeway gradually disappeared in southern Arizona as the Hohokam culture developed, the tradition was practiced into historic times by people such as the Great Basin Paiute.

Devil's claw (Martynia parviflora or Prohoscidea parviflora)-also called the unicorn plant. A coarse, low-growing annual with large, shallowly lobed leaves. All parts of the plant are covered with coarse, sticky hairs. The seedpods turn black at maturity and each is characterized by a long, slightly curved extension of its tip. The plants grows at elevations of 1000 to 5000 feet and ranges from western Texas to southern Nevada.

Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga taxifolia)-a tall evergreen found at elevations of 6500 to 10,000 feet. Used by the Hohokam for timber, this tree can be found in the higher mountain ranges surrounding the Tucson Basin.

Dry farming-method where rainfall runoff is diverted or trapped to provide water for crops. Dry-farming systems include terraces, check dams, and small ditches.

Ethnographic information-information obtained from the anthropological study of living peoples.

Gulf of California-also known as the Sea of Cortez, it is the body of water separating Baja, California from the rest of Mexico. The Colorado River empties into the gulf.

Hematite-an important form of iron ore that is very widely distributed. Hematite occurs in many different forms. The powdered mineral is metallic to dull in luster, dull to bright red in color. One form of hematite that is found in the Tucson area is specular hematite, which has a metallic, purple color in crushed form.

Ice Age-also known as the Pleistocene Epoch, this is the geologic period of time when glaciers alternately advanced and retreated over much of North America and Eurasia. The length of the Pleistocene is skill a matter of debate. It may extend from three million to nine thousand years ago. Arizona was never covered by glaciers. However, when glaciers advanced over the land, Arizona's climate became wetter and slightly cooler.

Iron pyrite-a metallic, yellow-to-brown sulfide of iron. This widely occurring mineral is also known as fool's gold. The mineral is cubic in crystal form.

Juniper (Juniperus sp.)-small to medium-sized evergreen trees with scaly leaves. Trunks and branches of the trees are often twisted. Various species grow at elevations of 3000 to 8000 feet in southern Arizona.

Kiln-a brick-lined oven used to fire ceramics.

Lac-a resinous deposit of an insect that lives on creosote bushes.

Limonite-a substance produced by the oxidation of iron-bearing minerals such as pyrite and magnetite. Limonite is a yellowish brown, soft mineral with no cleavage. It is a widely occuring mineral.

Macaw-large, brightly colored, tropical American birds closely resembling and related to parrots.

Mammoth-extinct relatives of the elephant that roamed North America and Eurasia during the Ice Age.

Manzanita (Arctostaphylus sp.)-also called bearberry. Manzanita is a low- growing evergreen shrub that is found at elevations of 3500 to 8000 feet. The plant is characterized by its red bark and oval-shaped leaves.

Mesoamerica-a geographical culture area extending from central Honduras and northwestern Costa Rica on the south, and, in Mexico, from the Rio Soto la Marina in Tamaulipas and the Rio Fuerte in Sinaloa on the north. Prehistoric groups in this area are characterized by agricultural villages and large ceremonial and politico-religious capitals. Well known cultural groups within Mesoamerica include Mayans, Aztecs, Olmecs, Mixtecs, Toltecs, and Zapotecs. The Chalchihuites culture of northwestern Mesoamerica probably had the most influence on the Hohokam.

Mesquite(Prosopis sp.)-a thorny plant that ranges from shrub to tree size. It grows at elevations below 5000 feet from southern Kansas to southwestern California and northern Mexico.

Mogollon-the prehistoric cultural groups who lived in an area which includes southern New Mexico, southeastern and central Arizona, the El Paso area in Texas, and northwestern Chihuahua Mexico. The Mogollon lifeway began about the same time the Hohokam entered southern Arizona. Although they grew crops, the Mogollon continued to make extensive use of native food resources. Around A.D. 1000, they became influenced by the Anasazi, another southwestern group. The Mogollon culture died out around A.D. 1450, and the people abandoned the Mogollon region, some perhaps merging with the Zuni.

Mohave Basin-the geographic area encompassing the Mohave Desert in California, north of the Imperial Valley and south of Death Valley.

Ocotillo (Fouqueria splendens)-this plant, also called the coach whip, is characterized by clumps of straight, thorny whip-like stems with no branches. When there is adequate rainfall, the ocotillo leafs out, but loses its leaves when the soil dries. The plant has brilliant red flowers that occur at the tips of its many stems. Ocotillos occur below 5000 feet, from west Texas to southeastern California and northern Mexico.

Paleo-Indian Tradition (also called Big Game Hunting Tradition)-a way of life practiced by many of the first human inhabitants of North America, who arrived here between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago. Paleo-lndian means the oldest or first Indians in North America. In Arizona, Paleo-lndians hunted with spears tipped with Clovis points. Two important Paleo-lndian sites in Arizona are the Naco and Lehner sites in the southeastern part of the state.

Patayan-the prehistoric cultural groups that occupied the region west of the Hohokam culture area. The boundaries of the Patayan area are, on the west, the Colorado River Delta north to above Needles, and, on the east, from Gila bend to Prescott. The Patayan practiced a lifeway similar to the Hohokam, although hunting and gathering were more emphasized in the Patayan culture. The Patayan were probably ancestral to the Yuma tribes that occupied the area historically. The culture is first recognized at A.D. 700.

Pigweed (Amaranthus sp.)-a common, coarse weed that grows in disturbed soil. It usually appears after summer rains at elevations below 5500 feet.

Piñon pine (Pinus cembroides)-a pine tree that grows at elevations of 5000 to 7500 feet. The piñon bears large edible nuts.

Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)-also called the yellow pine. This large tree grows at elevations of 5500 to 8500 feet.

Prickly pear (Opuntia sp.)-several species of cacti with flat stems and oval, flat, leaf-like pads. Prickly pears grow in semiarid and arid western North America. The fruits of the cactus are offen referred to as "tunas."

Radiocarbon dating-also called Carbon-14 dating, the method measures the amount of radioactive carbon contained in a sample of organic material. All living organisms absorb a form of carbon dioxide that contains Carbon 14. When the organism dies, the radioactive carbon beams to change back to its original structure. The rate of change can be measured. Carbon 14 has a half-life of about 5700 years, meaning that, after that amount of time, the organism retains one-half the amount of Carbon 14 it had immediately after death. The radiocarbon dating method has been used throughout the world to date archaeological remains.

Ramada-an open-air shade built of upright posts that are covered with a flat roof. The Pimas and Papagos also made use of the ramada as a focal point of family activity.

Rancheria-a form of village arrangement in which individual dwellings are widely separated. This can be contrasted with the Pueblo sale of architecture in which dwellings within a village are attached to one another in an apartment-like complex.

Saguaro (Cereus gigantea)-one of the largest cacti, the saguaro has one central trunk with one or more upward curving branches. This tree-size cactus played an important role in the economy of the Hohokam and the Pima and Papago cultures.

Serpentine-a metamorphic mineral altered from limestone or basic igneous rocks such as olivine and amphibole. One form of serpentine-chrysolite-is a common source of asbestos.

Sonoran Desert-a region stretching from Parker, Wickenburg, and the Tonto Basin in Arizona on the north; to the Rio Culiacan in Sinaloa, Mexico on the south; east to the Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico, and the Huachuca, Santa Catalina, Rincon, and Pinaleño Mountains in Arizona, and west to the Gulf of California, the Colorado River delta, and the Salton Sea in California. The desert includes parts of the state of Sinaloa, most of Sonora, and the northeast corner of Baja California in Mexico; and the southern half of Arizona and the southeastern corner of California in the United States. The area is characterized by vegetation ranging from creosote bush and bursage at lower elevations to palo verde, mesquite, and saguaro at higher elevahons.

Steatite-a soft, easily worked stone found in many localities in Arizona. The rock is a form of talc and is commonly associated with serpentine.

Tansy mustard (Descurainia sp.)-annual plants that grow in open soil. Tansy mustard has small, yellow flowers and blooms in early spring.

Tree-ring dating-also known as dendrochronology, it is a dating method based on the sequence of annual growth rings in trees. Dendrochronologists have charted the differences in ring width from year to year (widths are affected by annual rainfall). By overlapping the growth sequence chart from live and recently cut trees to trees cut by prehistoric people, scientists have built chronologies for various areas extending back over a thousand years. Thus, a beam taken from a ruin can often be dated by matching its growth sequence to the chronology. Chronologies have not yet been established for the Hohokam area.

Water table-the level of groundwater below which all cavities are filled and permeable rock formations are saturated with water. In the Tucson Basin, the water table, or groundwater level, is added to by gentle winter rains which soak into the ground and eventually find their way into the underground reservoir.

Yucca (Yucca sp.)-several plants that are members of the lily family. The plants grow throughout the Southwest at elevations of 1500 to 6000 feet. Plants are characterized by a clump of thin, pointed leaves at the base and a single flowering stalk. White flowers appear on the stalks each spring. The plant is important not only for its fiber but for soap obtained from the root and for the use of its seeds. fruits. and flowers as food.

Copyright © 1979. The Arizona Board of Regents.

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The University of Arizona Press, 3/2/97 2:04PM