Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hohokam Puzzle Exhibit at the Anasazi Heritage Center

Beginning in the winter season of 2011 to October 2012 the Anasazi Heritage Center near Dolores, Colorado is hosting the Pieces of the Puzzle – Hohokam Exhibit displaying new ideas on the Hohokam Culture.
The Hohokam culture is known for the extensive irrigation works on the Salt River in the Phoenix, Arizona area. An easy to visit Hohokam site is the Pueblo Grande site located at 4619 East Washington Street, near the northeast side of the Sky Harbor Airport. One of the large pictures of the exhibit is an artist rendition of the Pueblo Grande site.

The format of the exhibit emphasizes the concept of a puzzle, the interpretive signs in the form of jig saw puzzle pieces. There are four puzzle pieces: Who are the Hohokam, How do we know how old things are, How do we know if people migrated, and How do we count ancient people?

The Hohokam name refers to a specific culture that is part of a larger group referred to as the Huhugam. The Huhugam are the ancestors of the current tribal group known as the O’Odham. Recent analysis of pottery pieces has allowed researchers to break the period from 1300 to 1450 AD into small time segments. This allows the dating of the occupation of different sites. One of the newly identified styles is called Phoenix Polychrome and is dated from 1375 to 1450 AD.

A clue to whether the population was influenced by immigrants is found in the way pottery was manufactured. The Ancestral Pueblo people of the Mesa Verde area used a coil and scrape method, while the Hohokam used the paddle and anvil method. One of the displays shows this technique along with the associated tools.
It is assumed that potters will change their style of decoration more readily than their traditional method of manufacture. In 1275 AD, new styles of pottery began to appear in the Hohokam region. Were these traded in, were the ideas transferred from the Ancestral Pueblo area, or were Ancestral Pueblo people moving into the area? Although these pieces looked and were manufactured like Ancestral Pueblo pieces, the sand used as temper was from the Hohokam region, so immigrants to the area were responsible.

The 1275 AD date is also the time that the Four Corners area was beginning to lose population. The main gallery of the Anasazi Heritage Center has dissecting microscope displays on how pottery is analyzed. There are also many examples of the Black on White and Corrugated styles that can be compared with the Hohokam styles.

There are two computer displays with different video programs that describe the population changes that occurred in detail. Using the analyzed pottery pieces as clues, it is thought that there were movements from the core communities close to the Salt River to the peripheral sites at the ends of the irrigation canals.

As immigrants arrived in the Hohokam region, the existing communities experienced ecological and social stress. Communities coalesced into larger and more defensive sites and there was more emphasis on crops rather than wild foods. These stresses led to gradual reduction of the population over several generations from 1300 to 1450 AD. Eventually the Hohokam disappeared as a separate culture, but remain as ancestors.

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