Archaeological Investigations at Los Morteros: A Prehistoric Settlement in the Northern Tucson Basin Complete Report, Part II

Author(s): Henry D. Wallace

Year: 1995


Excavations at the large Hohokam ballcourt settlement of Los Morteros, AZ AA:12:57 (ASM), in 1987 and 1988 resulted in the identification of 770 prehistoric cultural features, including 349 structures, an adobe-walled compound enclosure, and at least five discrete cemeteries in the northern and southern portions of the kilometer-long site. Ninety-eight of the structures were fully or partially excavated. Also identified were a historic canal and evidence pointing to the location of the historic Point of the Mountains stage station, the Francisco Ruelas homestead, and a small Yaqui settlement dating to the 1920s. Research focused on the delineation of prehistoric settlement structure over time. The occupation was found to date from the Rillito, Rincon, and Tanque Verde phases of the Tucson Basin sequence.

A large number of the structures excavated had burned with substantial floor assemblages, providing a large set of whole or restorable artifacts from well-dated contexts for evaluation. In addition, many large trash deposits were identified and excavated. Analyses of ceramics from unmixed, stratigraphically overlapping deposits led to a refinement of the ceramic chronology, with the Middle Rincon subphase split into Middle Rincon 1, Middle Rincon 2, and Middle Rincon 3 (MR1, MR2, and MR3). Some unusual types of artifacts were recovered, including painted and etched shell, painted bone, a copper bell, three fulgurites, and portions of two macaw skeletons.

During the Rincon phase, the settlement was composed of a series of discrete residential loci, each including two to four courtyard groups with one to four structures apiece. Each residential locus appeared to have its own cemetery, horno, and trash disposal area(s). The residential loci were abandoned during the Late Rincon subphase, and a completely different settlement structure was established immediately thereafter, partly overlapping the previous occupation. This Late Rincon and the Tanque Verde phase occupation may have been at least partly seasonal, based on architectural and paleobotanical evidence. A shift in the use of agave accompanied this change in settlement. The compound enclosure, built in the latter portion of the Late Rincon subphase, may have been razed and supplanted in the Tanque Verde phase by two or more adobe structures that lacked an enclosing wall. New data are presented on the Linda Vista trincheras and on a masonry wall that blocks access to the hillside village. Alternatives to current models of community cohesion are presented that consider the possibility of conflict and greater mobility in settlement placement over time.

Cite this Record

Archaeological Investigations at Los Morteros: A Prehistoric Settlement in the Northern Tucson Basin Complete Report, Part II. Henry D. Wallace. 1995 ( tDAR id: 448029) ; doi:10.48512/XCV8448029

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -111.153; min lat: 32.362 ; max long: -111.129; max lat: 32.382 ;

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Contact(s): Desert Archaeology, Inc.

Contributor(s): Allen Dart; Kurt Dongoske; Christian E. Downum; Mark D. Elson; Suzzanne K. Fish; William B. Gillespie; Charles E. Glass; James Gunderson; James M. Heidke; James P. Holmlund; James W. McGill; Charles Miksicek; Ben K. Sternberg; Arthur W. Vokes

Prepared By(s): Center for Desert Archaeology

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