The Hohokam were talented artisans and craftspeople,some of the finest in the Southwest. They were expert workers of stone, bone, shell, clay, and possibly wood. From materials obtained locally and by trade, the Hohokam made an assortment of tools, utensils and ornaments. Their beautiful designs were artistic as well as functional.
Most tools and ornaments the Hohokam made were manufactured for personal or family use. Some individuals or possibly communities, however, may have acted as part-time specialists. A few highly regarded sources of raw material may have been controlled by certain groups, or an individual may have been particularly adept in the manufacture of certain items.
The Hohokam did not fashion metal tools so they relied predominantly on lithic (stone) material. Lithic tools are divided into two categories based primarily on manufacturing techniques. These two tool categories are chipped and ground stone tools.
Hohokam chipped stone tools were made from lithic materials such as chert. chalcedony, quartzite, basalt, obsidian and jasper. This material was used for the production of knives, scrapers, choppers, hoes, drills, and projectile points. In addition, large hand-held tabular schist knives were used to harvest wild plants.
At Pueblo Grande the Hohokam preferred to use obsidian to make their projectile points (arrowheads), although chert was also popular. Nearly half of all projectile points recovered from the site were manufactured were obsidian, a volcanic glass. Obsidan recovered from Pueblo Grande originated from 10 different sources, ranging in distance from 50 to 140 miles (80 to 225 km) from the site. The most favored obsidian came from the Sauceda Mountains, located 69 miles (111 km) to the southeast of Pueblo Grande, near Gila Bend.
Early Hohokam projectile points are some of the most elaborate and beautiful points ever manufactured in the Southwest. They are relatively large in size with barbs and deeply serrated edges and would have made formidable-looking weapons. These projectile points were clearly made by specialists. Later Hohokam projectile points were much smaller in size and usually triangular shaped.
Hohokam ground stone tools were manufactured from porous lava material such as vesicular basalt, used to fashion manos and metates (food grinding tools). Highly polished stone axes were manufacturing from diorite and other river cobbles. These axes were hafted with wooden handles and were effective in chopping down hard desert trees, such as mesquite, for construction material. Other ground stone lithic tools included mortars and pestles. polishing stones, hammers, plummets, hand files, and arrow shaft smoothers.
Bone Tools and Musical Instruments
The Hohokam also used animal bone to make some of their tools. For example,bones were made into awls and used for basketry and leather working. At Pueblo Grande, most awls were made from deer leg bones, but also included rabbit, dog, and rare raccoon bones.
In addition to utilitarian tools, the Hohokam fashioned musical instruments out of animal bones. Whistles were made from bird bones, and other musical instruments included flutes, rasps, and tortoise shell rattles. These items were likely an important aspect of Hohokam daily life and ceremonial activities.
Shell Jewelry and Ornamentation
The Hohokam were master craftspeople of marine shell jewelry. At Pueblo Grande shell ornaments were worn by both males and females, adults and children. Oftentimes shell jewelry was buried with the deceased, probably possessions once owned by the individual.
More than 30 species of shell were used by the Hohokam, primarily imported from the Gulf of California, but also from the Pacific Coast. Commonly used types of shell were the Glycymeris gigantea, Laevicardium, Olivella dama, Pectin, and Conus. Thousands of shell ornaments were recovered at Pueblo Grande during excavations. Although some shell jewelry was made at the site, it does not appear that Pueblo Grande was a major manufacturing or redistribution center.
The Hohokam used several techniques or processes in the fashioning of shell jewelry. One technique consisted of etching, which probably was done by painting the desired design on the shell using a resin or pitch, then immersing the shell in the juice from the saguaro fruit or other plants. The acidic juice ate away the unprotected portions of the shell, leaving the protected areas in raised relief. The Hohokam were also proficient in the cutting and grinding of shell to shape it into rings, bracelets, pendants, tinklers (small, bell-like objects fashioned from marine shell), and animal figures (especially frogs, lizards, and birds). Small shells were drilled and strung together as beads to make necklaces and bracelets.
The Hohokam also made jewelry out of stone. From argillite the manufactured beads, rings, overlay, lip and nose plugs, and effigies. Argillite artifacts at Pueblo Grande came from three different sources: the Upper Verde Valley, the Upper Tonto basin, and possibly the Tucson Basin.
Turquoise was another type of stone highly prized by the Hohokam, as it is today by most southwestern cultures. Turquoise at Pueblo Grande had been crafted into beads, pendants and tesserae (mosaic pieces). This turquoise came from at least five different sources in eastern Arizona and New Mexico. In addition, turquoise from southern California has been recovered from the site of Snaketown, south of Pueblo Grande along the Gila River.
The Hohokam made a variety of clothing from woven cotton, such as blankets, breech cloths, skirts and kilts, hats or turbans, and shirts. Actual specimens of textiles obtained from archaeological sites indicate that the Hohokam possessed knowledge of a complex weaving technique. Other evidence comes from the recovery of numerous ceramic and stone spindle whorls which were used to spin plant fibers into thread.
Besides cotton, the Hohokam used tough agave fibers to weave belts and ropes. Other plants provided the Hohokam with materials for sandals and plaited mats. At Pueblo Grande, remains of reed mats, possibly used as sleeping mats, were found in several rooms on top of the platform mound.
Although Hohokam textiles did not preserve well in the archaeological record, remnants of textiles found in caves, and woven impressions left in clay have been recovered from Hohokam sites, including Pueblo Grande.
Another type of artifact that does not preserve well in the archaeological record is wood. The Hohokam are believed to have used wood for a number of purposes in addition to building materials, such as digging sticks, paddles, handles, and other objects. Wooden artifacts have been found at Pueblo Grande, including several wooden staffs or wands associated with male and female burials. Three of these staffs were painted blue, and may have represented some kind of badge or status marker.
Before and after the introduction of pottery, the Hohokam used locally available plant fibers to weave baskets, Hohokam baskets were typically coiled and made from willow fibers and arrowweed. Pieces of charred basketry have been found as such sites as Snaketown and Pueblo Grande. Baskets probably were used for a variety of purposes in which heavier or more fragile pottery was unsuitable. Some archaeologists have theorized that lining baskets with clay led to the development of pottery.