Home Bodies: An Examination of House Cremation among the Hohokam

Author(s): Aaron Wright; Will Russell

Year: 2016


During the pre-Classic era (ca. AD 400-1150), pithouses and houses-in-pits were the preferred modes of residential architecture among Hohokam communities. When excavated, these wood-framed domiciles often show signs of burning, which effectively closed the structures’ lifecycles as dwellings. Among affiliated and descendant communities such as the O’odham and some Yuman-speaking groups, a person’s death could prompt the burning of their home in order to combat any pollution, sickness, or witchcraft associated with the decedent. Fire was also used to transmute the dwelling and other personal possessions so that they could accompany the deceased into the realm of the dead. Understandably, many researchers perceive Hohokam house burning in a similar quasi-functional light—i.e., as a way to meet the needs of humans, whether dead or alive. Alternatively, we frame Hohokam house burning through a relational, animistic perspective. Based on a comparison of offerings in Hohokam cremations to ritualized floor assemblages of burned houses, we suggest that some houses were conceptualized as other-than-human persons, perhaps even family members. At the end of their lives, some Hohokam dwellings were ritually prepared, given funerary offerings, and then burned in what amounts to architectural cremation.

Cite this Record

Home Bodies: An Examination of House Cremation among the Hohokam. Aaron Wright, Will Russell. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 405014)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


animism Hohokam Ritual

Geographic Keywords
North America - Southwest

Spatial Coverage

min long: -115.532; min lat: 30.676 ; max long: -102.349; max lat: 42.033 ;