The Pueblo Grande Museum Outdoor Exhibits Trail takes visitors through the Hohokam archaeological ruin site of Pueblo Grande. Visitors will see the archaeological features of a prehistoric platform and ballcourt, the Doorways to the Past: Hohokam Houses exhibit consisting of an adobe compound and pithouse cluster, and as well as agricultural and desert plant exhibits.
The Adobe Compound
Each adobe building contained one large room. Often, several rooms were built side-by-side and were arranged within compounds. A thick adobe wall enclosed an area in which one or more rooms were built. Adobe compounds were like small apartment complexes. The rooms within an adobe compound were places where people slept and kept their possessions. Small hearths were located in the floor and used for heat and light. Most cooking was probably done outside in hearths or roasting pits or hornos.
Archaeologists have observed that pithouses were regularly arranged in groups around an open central courtyard area, called a pithouse cluster. The doorways of the structures in a pithouse cluster tended to face inwards toward the courtyard. People probably engaged in most activities outside. Other structures were present in and around pithouse clusters. Ramadas, shade structures, gave protection from the sun during the day when people were active outside. Residents of a pithouse cluster are thought to have been related to one another and clusters may have been inhabited by extended families.
The Agricultural Garden
When the Hohokam settled here, the Salt River ran year round and the Hohokam constructed hundreds of miles of canals to bring river water to irrigate their fields. They grew corn, several types of beans, and squash. Cotton was also grown. In addition to water, the fields needed protection from birds and rodents to ensure a good crop. Since their fields were so extensive, covering thousands of acres, the Hohokam probably relied on manual labor and their domesticated dogs to keep pests away.
The Platform Mound
When explorers came to the Salt River Valley in the 1500's they found Hohokam villages in ruins. Among these ruins they found huge mounds of earth and rock. We now know, through archaeological excavations, that these mounds of dirt are artificial platform mounds, which the Hohokam built mostly during the Classic Period (A.D. 1150 to 1450). After the Hohokam stopped using the ballcourts, platform mounds became the focus of the village. Once there were over 40 platform mounds in the Salt River Valley, but today the platform mound at Pueblo Grande is one of only three mounds left.
Ballcourts may have been the center of village life at one time. They were oval, bowl-shaped depressions in the ground, surrounded by earthen embankments or mounds of dirt. Similar to the bleachers or grandstands of sports arenas today, these embankments would have allowed dozens of spectators to watch what was happening. At each end of the courts were openings that may have been a type of goal into which players attempted to place rubber or stone balls. However, we do not know what the ballgame looked like, and we do not know that it was a “game” as we think of them. There is evidence they were associated with markets or trade relationships.
The Desert Oasis
This area of the trail, developed and funded by the Columbine Garden Club, informs visitors about the abundant resources available to the Hohokam in the natural Sonoran desert environment. Desert plants were a source of nutritious foods, as well as building materials, and fibers for clothing and cordage.
If you have questions or require further information about these exhibits please call the museum at 602.495.0901.