The Pueblo Grande Project: The Bioethnography of a Classic Period Hohokam Population


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 6, The Bioethnography of a Classic Period Hohokam Population, represents the most-comprehensive study of a Hohokam skeletal population yet undertaken. After Chapter 1, the introduction to the study, Chapter 2 presents a demographic profile of the Pueblo Grande Hohokam based on a population of 270 individuals whose sex could be determined. Male and female mortality patterns were similar, with females experiencing a slightly higher mortality rate during their reproductive years. Of the 270 sexable individuals, 135 were assigned to the early Classic period, and 102 to the late Classic period. For those 10 years old or older, mean life expectancy declined in the late Classic period.

Chapter 3 reports the analysis of enamel defects in the Pueblo Grande sample. The amount and extent of hypoplasias and hypocalcification suggested that nutritional stress during childhood was very high. Chapter 4 presents a study of cortical bone loss in the subject population. An extended period of bone loss was observed from birth through age 4, and again for a period following age 9. The lack of adequate nutrition is thought to be the most likely reason. Porotic hyperostosis and diploic thickening, both associated with iron-deficiency anemia from infancy through old age, are examined in Chapter 5. As in many other prehistoric southwestern populations, there was a high frequency of porotic hyperostosis at Pueblo Grande. Diploic thickening indicates that anemia was experienced beyond the childhood and adolescent years. It is also of interest to note that diploic thickening increased during the late Classic period, and males in particular seem to have been more significantly affected during the late Classic period. Chapter 6 presents the results of the trace-element study of adults. Results indicate dietary differences between the males and females; females appear to have eaten more plants and males more meat, but there appears to have been a decrease in the amount of meat available to the population through time. In Chapter 7 the results of trace-element analysis in subadults are reported. A deficiency in iron was noted, and it is suggested that infants and children suffered from weanling diarrhea. Vertebral osteophytosis is discussed in Chapter 8. This condition, common in human populations, most affected the lower back, was more prevalent in females than males, and occurred at an earlier age in females than in males. Chapter 9 reports on bone loss or osteopenia in the Pueblo Grande sample. It is argued that stress was associated with reproduction, and that there was a greater amount of stress resulting in bone loss during the late Classic period. During the late Classic period there also was a dramatic increase in cortical bone loss in males.

The volume concludes that the Pueblo Grande population was severely nutritionally and reproductively stressed throughout the Classic period, and that the skeletal indicators of stress observed increased through the Classic period. The population is believed to have been living on the edge of survival, and struggling to maintain itself nutritionally and reproductively.

Cite this Record

The Pueblo Grande Project: The Bioethnography of a Classic Period Hohokam Population. Dennis P. Van Gerven, Susan Guise Sheridan. 1994 ( tDAR id: 4566) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8PG1QNN

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1000 to 1450

Spatial Coverage

min long: -112; min lat: 33.43 ; max long: -111.971; max lat: 33.456 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contributor(s): Julie Amon; T. Michael Fink; Sandra L. Karhu; Christopher W. Kuzawa; Kathryn E. McCafferty; Diane M. Mittler; Susan Guise Sheridan; Paul Tunnel; Dennis P. Van Gerven

File Information

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pueblo_grande_ssi_vol-6.pdf 15.83mb Oct 16, 2010 10:43:14 AM Public