Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Something New Every Time

Recently, I had the opportunity to venture out on a tour of the Pueblo Grande site.  I was excited to reacquaint myself with the area and learn about the Hohokam people who built and lived in/on the mound.  Our group gathered in the lobby and then watched a short video about the Hohokam people, their customs and practices, and the significance of the site to the prehistoric and present inhabitants of the area.  Next, we gathered outside for another overview and information session in the shade.  After that, we were off.
The trail actually winds around the side of the mound before scaling it.  This allows visitors to study the surrounding land, including the Park of Four Waters, and view interesting features like a nearby canal, which now brings water to the city but is based off of the original Hohokam canal used for agricultural irrigation.  Walking behind the platform mound also lets visitors glimpse many of the other acres the museum owns and of which the museum periodically offers tours.  The platform mound is impressive from this vantage point, and it is easy to see why it was a major landmark in its time.

After curving around the platform mound, the trail begins to ascend the structure.  The trail slopes up at a gradual gradient, making the climb very easy.  Once atop the platform mound, visitors are able to survey the surrounding city of Phoenix.  The juxtaposition between the prehistoric site and the thriving modern metropolis causes visitors to pause and consider the history of the desert and the role humans have played.

One of the first features of the mound that was pointed out to my group was a small hole that was part of a tunnel dug by Dr. Joshua Miller.  Luckily, archaeologists now have better methods of excavating a site than digging damaging tunnels, but it is interesting to consider how far the science of preservation has progressed in the last one hundred years.  Another fascinating feature of the mound is the Solstice room, which includes two doors in curious locations.

During the summer and winter solstices a beam of light stretches between the two doors.  The function of the room was not discovered until recently, and the fact that the Hohokam were able to measure the light and Sun so accurately amazed me.  Many of the other rooms on the mound have been excavated, but they have been refilled to prevent damage and crumbling caused by nature and the vibrations of transportation methods such as the planes, trains, and automobiles, which all surround the site.
After descending the platform mound, our tour ventured to the compound houses and pit houses.  Since the platform mound was used mainly as an administrative area, many of the people of the village lived below in either compound houses or pit houses.

Walking up to the adobe compound
Inside the adobe compound
Pueblo Grande has recreated both types of structures, and each is filled with different recreated items in order to give visitors the best possible understanding of what life was like for the Hohokam during the thousand years they inhabited the site.  I particularly enjoyed the pit house because it was cool inside, and the architecture of the structure is deliberate and complex.  Other members of my tour seemed equally intrigued.  We all enjoyed being able to touch the items inside, such as pots and rope, to better visualize Hohokam life.


The tour concluded the outside portion with stops at the ballcourt, garden, and oven. The ballcourt is drastically different than the ones a visitor might find in Mesoamerica, but that is why it is intriguing.  Archaeologists are not exactly sure what type of game was played at the site or even for what purpose this area served.  However, it is not difficult to imaging hundreds of screaming fans on the edges cheering for their favorite team or players.  Past the ballcourt is a garden where the people at Pueblo Grande Museum grow typical foods the Hohokam probably cultivated and a mini irrigation system using canals waters the crops.  Finally, we walked past the pit oven where agave hearts are still occasionally roasted and finished the tour inside the museum’s main gallery.


Overall, I found the tour informative and enjoyable.  It helped me appreciate the sublime aspects of the site and Hohokam culture that are often overlooked by the area’s current inhabitants.  The tours are a great way to see the site, and every tour guide has different areas of expertise.  Therefore, each tour is different and can offer visitors new information every time they visit.  I look forward to my next guided stroll around the site.

Posted by Heather, Pueblo Grande Museum Summer Intern

1 comment:

  1. This is an amazing blog. Thank you for your dedication posting your adventure and sharing your wonderful trip. I look forward

    to coming back and reading more. I kind of feel you may already be planning your next adventure which I don't want to miss.

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