Archaeology in America: Hohokam Platform Mounds


The prehistoric Hohokam people of central Arizona constructed platform mounds at more than 100 sites between AD 1250 and 1450. These were stage-like platforms 2–2.5 meters high on which the Hohokam built rooms to place them in higher and more prominent locations in comparison to other rooms in the surrounding community. Sometimes additional rooms were constructed around the base of the platform mound, and a wall was built at ground level to surround the platform mound and rooms inside a compound. Additional compounds and room blocks, each providing homes for two to thirty or more households, were scattered in the landscape surrounding the platform mound. Archaeologists refer to the platform mound and the surrounding residences together as a “settlement complex” or a “community complex.” When agricultural fields are included, individual platform mound settlement complexes covered territories of 10–50 square kilometers or more. Platform mound settlement complexes are important examples of Native American polities (in this case small, self-governed territories) that flourished and declined in the American Southwest prior to the arrival of Columbus in the New World.

The big nonresidential rooms or council chambers at platform mounds usually occur in sets of two or more; only the earliest of platform mounds may have had a single council chamber. A platform mound was thus a special place in which several corporate groups, each with access to a particular council chamber, symbolized their association into a larger corporate entity by building and sharing the platform mound, while at the same time retaining their own identity by maintaining separate council chambers.

At some platform mounds one or more big-room council chambers might be singled out for special treatment by being placed on top of the platform itself, whereas others were constructed at ground level around the base of the mound. Since a room constructed on top of the mound required about ten times more effort to build than a room at ground level (when the effort of constructing the platform is also included), this can be construed as a ranking of the groups with respect to each other. At other mounds the council chambers were all constructed at ground level around the base of the platform mounds, and at yet others all council chambers were placed on top of the mound.

Cite this Record

Archaeology in America: Hohokam Platform Mounds. Glen E. Rice, Arleyn W. Simon, Owen Lindauer, Francis McManamon. In Archaeology in America: An Encyclopedia. Pp. 168-171. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. 2009 ( tDAR id: 427114) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8514172

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1250 to 1400

Spatial Coverage

min long: -111.293; min lat: 33.606 ; max long: -110.942; max lat: 33.817 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Francis McManamon

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