Pueblo Grande, a National Historic Landmark, is a 1,500 year old archaeological site left by the Hohokam culture located just minutes from downtown Phoenix next to Sky Harbor International Airport.
Hohokam pottery-making and cooking, illustration by Michael Hampshire
The Hohokam lived in central and southern Arizona from about AD 1 to 1450. They were expert farmers, and engineered over 1000 miles of canals to irrigate fields. Major villages centered around ballcourts, and later around platform mounds. Distinguished by their red-on-buff pottery, the Hohokam also made textiles and shell jewelry.
After thriving in the Sonoran Desert for over 1000 years, Hohokam society began to decline and collapsed over the course of several generations. Reasons for this decline may include environmental changes, growing population or internal strife, but when Spanish explorers arrived in the1500s, they found Hohokam villages in ruins. However, they found thriving villages of Akimel O’odham (Pima), descendants of the Hohokam according to O’odham oral traditions.
Hohokam Red-on-buff scoop, ca. AD 900-1100
The Hohokam began manufacturing their distinctive red-on-buff pottery about AD 500. Red paint on a buff colored background depicted a myriad of geometric designs, and whimsical images of humans and animals. For 400 years, red-on-buff pottery was highly prized among the Hohokam. But the style fell into decline around AD 1150, as other types of pottery gained favor.
Red-on-buff bowls and small jars were ubiquitous in Hohokam households for more than six centuries. The form and size of red-on-buff vessels suggest that they were primarily used for food preparation and consumption. Although red-on-buff vessels were part of everyday Hohokam household pottery assemblages, the designs on these vessels and some forms may have held social and ritual meaning.
Red-on-buff dog effigy, ca. AD 900-1100 Red-on-buff sherd , ca. AD 900-1100
Pecten shell pendant
The Hohokam were also masterful makers of marine shell jewelry. They cut, ground and etched pieces from over 30 species of shell obtained through a vast regional trade network. Shell ornaments were worn by females and males, adults and children.
Etched shell pendant
Glycymeris shell frog effigy
Take a tour of Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park.
Exhibit Illustrations—by Michael Hampshire, courtesy of Pueblo Grande Museum
Pueblo Grande Museum has been a part of the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department since 1929, and is the largest preserved archaeological site within Phoenix. The Museum is open 7 days a week October through April, and closed Sundays and Mondays, May through September.
4619 E. Washington St Phoenix, AZ www.pueblogrande.com