La Ciudad Canals: A Study of Hohokam Irrigation Systems at the Community Level


The nineteenth-century farmers, merchants, and prospectors who settled in the Salt River Valley of Arizona encountered one of the most dense and most visible concentrations of prehistoric ruins in North America. They named their new city Phoenix because they envisioned it rising up from the ashes of the prehistoric Hohokam culture. One of the most pronounced features discovered was large irrigation canals that stretched across most of the valley floor--an ancient irrigation network, the magnitude of which they would not match until the early part of this century (Figure 1.1).

In less than 50 years, the construction of a modern irrigation network and the building of Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa and other Anglo towns of the Salt River Valley erased most of the surface indications of the prehistoric Hohokam irrigation system. The inevitability of this destruction was obvious by the 1880s, and archaeologically inclined observers began to record what evidence remained of the ancient canals and to speculate on how the prehistoric peoples had used them. Archaeological interest in the Hohokam canals continues today, but we are left with only a fragmentary record composed of old maps, aerial photographs, and the usually truncated remains of canals in the earth. We continue to investigate this record because a knowledge of when these canals were built, how they were used, and why they were abandoned remains central to any understanding of prehistory in southern Arizona.

Cite this Record

La Ciudad Canals: A Study of Hohokam Irrigation Systems at the Community Level. Neal W. Ackerly, Jerry B. Howard, Randall H. McGuire. Tempe, Arizona: Office of Cultural Resource Management, Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University. 1987 ( tDAR id: 4386) ; doi:10.6067/XCV82Z13WJ

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Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 200 to 1450

Spatial Coverage

min long: -112.053; min lat: 33.445 ; max long: -112.03; max lat: 33.466 ;

Record Identifiers

NADB Citation ID No. (s): 000000166112

NADB Document ID No. (s): 2202008

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