Hohokam Social Structure and Irrigation Management: The Ceramic Evidence from the Central Phoenix Basin

Author(s): David R. Abbott

Year: 1994


The prehistoric Hohokam people of south-central Arizona are best known for their large and extensive irrigation works. However, just how the administration of the canal systems articulated with the organization of Hohokam society is an interesting and unresolved issue. In this study, substantial gains are made for reconstructing Hohokam social structure, the degree to which it was shaped by their irrigation economy, and the evolving interplay between hydraulic management and the pattern of Hohokam social relationships over time. A methodology is developed, based on the exchange of utilitarian ceramics over short distances (as little as 5 km), in order to trace social interaction between Hohokam populations who lived in the central Phoenix Basin between A.D. 1100 and 1400. Applications of the methodology show that hydraulic management had a pervasive influence on the organization of Hohokam social networks. In addition, there is new evidence to suggest an increase in Hohokam social complexity around A.D. 1275 that may have been directly linked to the inherent asymmetrical control of water in large irrigation economies. The ceramic methodology consists of two parts. First, it is demonstrated with geologic mapping, petrographic analyses, and electron microprobe assays that the production sources of Hohokam utilitarian wares are closely associated with the pottery’s temper, thereby enabling the participants in the exchange transaction to be identified. Second, the social relationship between the interacting parties can be inferred on the basis of the pottery’s exchange value, which, in turn, is determined by an analysis of ceramic production and use. This ability to assess who among the Hohokam interacted with whom and the nature of their social ties provides a novel and powerful approach to study Hohokam social structure, which complements other approaches currently used by archaeologists.

Cite this Record

Hohokam Social Structure and Irrigation Management: The Ceramic Evidence from the Central Phoenix Basin. David R. Abbott. 1994 ( tDAR id: 425905) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8425905

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -114.082; min lat: 32.157 ; max long: -109.182; max lat: 34.38 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Salt River Project Cultural Resource Manager

Repository(s): Salt River Project, Tempe, AZ

Prepared By(s): Arizona State University (ASU)

Record Identifiers

SRP Library Call No.(s): E99.H68A33 1994

SRP Library Barcode No.(s): 00055517

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1994_Abbott_HohokamSocial_OCR_PDFA.pdf 192.33mb May 1, 1994 Oct 5, 2016 2:08:15 PM Public
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