The Bajada Canals of the Safford Basin, Southeastern Arizona: Excellence in Prehistoric Engineering

Author(s): James Neely; Don Lancaster

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "SAA 2019: General Sessions" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Exceptionally well-engineered prehistoric canals have been disclosed near the city of Safford, Arizona. Within an area of roughly 450 square kilometers, 12 distinct canal systems, comprised of 41 canals, have been identified originating in the bajada (foothills) of the Pinaleño Mountains. Conveying water from mountain runoff and springs, the longest canal is about 13 kilometers, and the total length of all systems exceeds 125 kilometers. While a few canals may date as early as ca. A.D. 1100, the vast majority date between ca. A.D. 1250 and A.D. 1450 and appear to be the constructs of northern Kayenta migrants. These features represent the second largest assemblage of canal systems in the American Southwest, and, while smaller in size and total length than the Phoenix area Hohokam canal systems, they exhibit engineering sophistication not found in the Hohokam systems. Unique engineering features include: canal portions being literally "hung" on mesa sides to render routes largely independent of local landscape; sophisticated inter-drainage watershed crossings; counter flowing canals to resolve terrain issues; and a significant 80 m long aqueduct. These canals have expanded the knowledge of prehistoric water management engineering and agricultural intensification in the American Southwest.

Cite this Record

The Bajada Canals of the Safford Basin, Southeastern Arizona: Excellence in Prehistoric Engineering. James Neely, Don Lancaster. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 449679)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -124.365; min lat: 25.958 ; max long: -93.428; max lat: 41.902 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22939