The Pueblo Grande Project: An Analysis of Classic Period Hohokam Mortuary Practices


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 7, An Analysis of Classic Period Mortuary Practices, represents the largest systematic investigation of Hohokam burial practices. More than 800 human burials, both cremations and inhumations, were excavated as a result of the project, and this study focused on inhumations. Five of the six chapters consider the Pueblo Grande data. However, Chapter 2 presents the results of a crosscultural survey of the determinants of mortuary practices. As might be expected, it was concluded that a variety of factors, social, ideational, physical, and circumstantial, affect mortuary practices. Chapter 3 reports on the attempt to determine if the individuals found in the spatially discrete burial groups were members of the same social group. Demographic data and the spatial relationship of burial groups to habitation areas strongly suggest that each burial group contained the remains of the inhabitants of the adjacent habitation area. The analysis of a variety of variables led to the suggestion that the remains in the cemeteries were those of extended families and larger social units, perhaps clans or lineage segments. Chapter 4 presents the analysis of burial offerings in order to assess wealth; ranking, and prestige among the individuals buried in the project area. Although there was an uneven distribution of burial wealth across the burial groups, there was little evidence to support the notion that the society within the project area was ranked in any manner. Chapter 5 presents an analysis of Hohokam world view and ritual. It is argued that some evidence exists that suggests the presence of special individuals, perhaps shamans.

Cite this Record

The Pueblo Grande Project: An Analysis of Classic Period Hohokam Mortuary Practices. 1994 ( tDAR id: 4567) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8SQ8XFM

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1000 to 1450

Spatial Coverage

min long: -111.999; min lat: 33.42 ; max long: -111.961; max lat: 33.462 ;

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pueblo_grande_ssi_vol-7.pdf 23.39mb Mar 15, 2011 2:38:36 PM Public