Frank Midvale's Investigation of the Site of La Ciudad


La Ciudad Phoenix was one of numerous Hohokam Indian villages that once were located about every three miles (4.8 kilometers) along extensive irrigation canals in the Salt and Gila river valleys. First founded in the early centuries A.D., La Ciudad endured for a millennium or more, evolving new forms of organization to meet life’s challenges on several scales of interaction, only to fail in the end when the Hohokam abandoned the Phoenix basin about A.D. 1450. The more archaeologists learn about this early human experience, the more fascinating it becomes.

The rise of the new Phoenix, however, has increasingly restricted access to the archaeological record. It has also summarily destroyed many physical traces of the Hohokam occupation. When I first saw the site of La Ciudad in 1979, for example, all that remained on the surface were a few potsherds and chipped stone flakes to mark where this large village had once stood. Fortunately, much was done earlier in this century to record the location of the Hohokam canals and the principal villages at a time when their physical traces were much more obvious. Furthermore, recent excavations have shown that a surprising number of significant cultural deposits still remain intact below plowed fields or housing developments. The struggle to learn more about Hohokam prehistory thus continues.

An early leader in this struggle was Frank Midvale. His excavations at La Ciudad on behalf of Dwight Heard in the 1920s and his later work at the site produced a corpus of data that constitutes a substantial contribution to Hohokam archaeology. The history of efforts to understand La Ciudad goes to the heart of the story of historic preservation in Phoenix. Unlike other American cities where strong local institutions emerged that fostered historic preservation and archaeology, in Phoenix these nascent social forces were soon divided and the growth of local institutions was atrophied for many years. One result of this is that much of the early work on Hohokam archaeology was not published. New federal and state legislation has now begun to correct this situation, renewing the opportunity for the growth of a historic preservation movement. One outcome of that is the publication of this monograph.

Cite this Record

Frank Midvale's Investigation of the Site of La Ciudad. David R. Wilcox. Tempe, Arizona: Office of Cultural Resource Management, Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University. 1987 ( tDAR id: 4405) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8542M9N

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Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 200 to 1450

Spatial Coverage

min long: -112.051; min lat: 33.446 ; max long: -112.032; max lat: 33.463 ;

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