The Pueblo Grande Project: Environment and Subsistence


Soil Systems, Inc. (SSI) of Phoenix, Arizona conducted a 16-month data recovery project at the large Hohokam village of Pueblo Grande. The site is located on the north bank of the Salt River in metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona. Approximately 20 to 25 percent of the site was excavated as the result of the expansion of the urban freeway system in Phoenix. The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) sponsored the project.

Pueblo Grande was one of the primary villages in the Phoenix Basin and is located in the northern Sonoran desert of south-central Arizona. The site was occupied as early as A.D. 500 during the Pioneer period. The remains found in the project area date primarily to the Classic period. Early occupation of the project area is limited to the late Sedentary period, probably dating between A.D. 1000 and 1100 or 1150. The Classic period occupation in the project area probably dates between A.D. 1150 and 1450. The Classic period phase dates for the project area are: the Soho phase, A.D. 1150 to 1800; the Civano phase, A.D. 1250 or 1300 to 1375; and the Polvorón phase, A.D. 1350+ to 1425 or 1450.

The SSI research at Pueblo Grande broadly addressed the socioeconomic organization and evolution of the Classic period Hohokam as viewed from Pueblo Grande. Research domains were developed to focus specifically on the questions of socioeconomic organization and evolution, particularly at the coresident, household, and site level. Topics addressed included the size, composition, and functional variability of coresident (pithouse aggregates or courtyard groups and compounds) units; the degree of integration within and between coresident units in a single architectural complex; evidence of economic specialization or subsistence diversification; demography and growth rates; variation in diet reflecting greater access to a wider variety of foodstuffs in wealthier households; variation in the distribution of prestige items; and the degree of overlap between coresidential and household units. For the purposes of this study, coresidential units consist of a group of people who normally share living quarters, and households include people who share in the maximum number of definable activities in a particular cultural setting.

Research also focused on the mortuary practices of the Classic period Hohokam at Pueblo Grande. A total of 836 burial features -- 620 inhumations, 189 cremations, and 27 possible burials --was recovered from 17 burial groups. This represented an unprecedented opportunity to study Hohokam social organization. Additionally, because the burials generally occurred in discrete cemeteries that were usually associated with a habitation area, the burial data provided supplemental data on household size, composition, and organization. The array of associated burial offerings, the state of health as determined by the osteological analyses, and the reconstruction of Pueblo Grande community organization contributed information that explicitly addressed the research domains.

Defining site structure also was a major goal of this research. Specifically, the concentric-zone model for paramount Hohokam sites was evaluated. Pueblo Grande is of interest because it appears that two central, spatially discrete loci were occupied simultaneously during the late Classic period. One was the platform mound, located in the southern portion of the site, and the other was the big house, which was located toward the north edge of the site.

The Pueblo Grande Project report is divided into eight volumes. Volume 1, Introduction, Research Design, and Testing Results, presents introductory and background information as well as summaries of the research design and testing results. Also summarized are the field methods used during the excavations at Pueblo Grande.

Volume 5, Environment and Subsistence, reports on the environmental and geomorphological setting of Pueblo Grande, and the subsistence remains recovered from the excavations. Chapter 2 presents an overview of historic vegetation patterns at and near the site, and catchment analysis is employed to reconstruct possible land use and exploitation patterns of the inhabitants of Pueblo Grande. Human impact on the Pueblo Grande environment also is discussed. Chapters 3 and 4 present the local geology and geomorphological investigations of the Lehi terrace. Chapter 5 contains the flotation, macrobotanical, and wood charcoal analyses. Cultigens and wild foods were consumed by the Hohokam.

Some changes in abundance and in the assortment of plants represented suggested some changes in the subsistence economy through time in the project area. During the early Classic period, domesticates made

up greater proportions of the diet, whereas during the late Classic period, wild or semidomesticated plants made up increased frequencies of foods consumed. Also, although some variation in the quantities and types of plant foods consumed was noted between habitation area, there do not

appear to have been any significant differences between habitation areas regarding the types and amounts of food available. Chapter 6 discusses the results of the analysis of pollen samples from the project area. This discussion addresses human impact on the Pueblo Grande environment. Also, the pollen data suggested that the variety of plant foods consumed at Pueblo Grande was quite high, and that this diversity decreased over time. The archaeofaunal material recovered from the project area is reported in Chapter 7. These remains represent the largest such assemblage yet analyzed from a Hohokam site, with 58 taxa recognized. Of particular note was the large quantity of fish remains recovered. Fish appear to have been the most important source of animal protein, after rabbits. Some variation in the types of species represented occurred among habitation areas. Chapter 8 discusses the nonmarine shell and related materials recovered from the excavations. Anodonta was the only nonmarine species that was probably used as a food source.

Cite this Record

The Pueblo Grande Project: Environment and Subsistence. Scott Kwiatkowski. 1994 ( tDAR id: 4553) ; doi:10.6067/XCV89G5KTX


Investigation Types
Data Recovery / Excavation

Geographic Keywords
Arizona Phoenix Salt River

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1000 to 1450

Spatial Coverage

min long: -112.002; min lat: 33.421 ; max long: -111.968; max lat: 33.461 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contributor(s): R. Scott Anderson; Robert I. Birnie; G. Timothy Gross; Steven R. James; Scott Kwiatkowski; Jo Anne Miller; Susan J. Smith

File Information

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pueblo_grande_ssi_vol-5.pdf 33.16mb Oct 16, 2010 10:43:14 AM Public