30 June 2008

The foolish man...

Ok, this is Casa Grande, the most visible and famous remain of the Hohokam people who live in the Phoenix-Tuscon area. They were discovered by a man named Harold Gladwin, who realized that two kinds of pottery were found at the site, one similar to tribes further north, and one not. In 1933 he presented the Hohokam as a separate culture for the first time, using the name from the local Pima tribes meaning "those who have gone before." It is unclear if the Hohokam came from an earlier hunter-gatherer tribe in the Arizona area, or if they migrated north from Mexico. They made houses out of sticks and mud, those being the most abundant material in their desert home, usually made in a sort of pit house. One of the most fascinating aspects of the culture seems to be their burials, which were cremated in large areas with offerings of crushed bone and pottery. As time went on, the pit houses evolved into communities, with several families living around a courtyard, and sharing a ceremonial mound or ballpit. They lived in the desert by using irrigation from the nearby Gila River to grow crops. The Casa Grande was actually built very late in the Hohokam timeline, and was abandoned when they disapeared around the 1300's. This time period corresponds to a large drought that occured throughout the Southwest, that drove many tribes from their original lands, perhaps including the Hohokam. The local Pima Indians also believe they are descended from these ancient people, perhaps having returned after the long drought. Historic accounts of the Casa Grande begin with the journal entries of Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino when he visited the ruins in 1694. In his description of the large ancient structure before him, he wrote the words “casa grande” (or “great house”) which are still used today. The Casa today owes itself to a man from nearby Florence, Rev. Isaac Whittemore. He was the one who spoke to the Federal Government about the dwellings fragile state, and notably that the great house made of mud was turning into... well, mud. In June 1982, it became the first archeological site established by the Government. The first protective roof, made of wood and very small, was built over the ruins in 1903. The modern steel structure was built in 1932. It became a National Monument after the establishment of the National Park Service in 1916.
Monument to Stephen Tyng Mather, who "laid the foundation of the National Park Service."

Showing some of the modern reenforcements added around the begining of the 20th century.
A native local

Some examples of Hohokam pottery from nearby
What the Casa Grande would have looked like, including a cutaway to show its construction.
Showing what the entire community would have looked like. Casa Grande is in the lower left corner.

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