The Hohokam constructed a number of features used for domestic purposes. This type of architecture would have been constructed and used by immediate or extended family groups. Domestic architecture among the Hohokam included field houses, pithouses, coursed-adobe houses, hornos, trash mounds, storage pits, and ramadas.
In or near their agricultural fields, the Hohokam built small field houses. These round or oval shaped brush structures were seasonally occupied and served as temporary residence for field workers performing various tasks. In addition, they may have been used when certain types of work were being done such as canal construction and maintenance. Unlike pithouses and coursed-adobe houses, field houses do not appear to have been built in clusters but were scattered among the fields. Extended family groups may have had more than one field house located in different field areas, each relating to separate plots of land.
The most common type of housing built by the Hohokam were pithouses. This type of house is distinct by its placement in a shallow pit dug about 1.5 feet (0.5 m) deep. The house was constructed inside the pit and consisted of a wooden super-structure of mesquite or cottonwood beams interlaced with sticks, saguaro ribs, cholla branches, and grasses. These were then covered with mud and adobe. Burying the pithouse walls kept out drafts, thus insulating the house against the wide extreme of desert temperatures. These houses would have kept occupants relatively cool in summer and warm in winter.
Hohokam pithouses were predominantly single-roomed dwellings that were oval or semi-rectangular in shape and had small, sheltered entrances, which protruded from one side of the structure. Since these houses contained no windows, most activities were probably done outside under open-sided ramadas placed near the house. Inside some Hohokam pithouses there is evidence for the existence of raised areas, possibly used for sleeping. In addition, storage pits are often found in Hohokam pithouses, although these features are also common outside.
Pithouses at Pueblo Grande and other Hohokam sites were built in clusters and many of the structures faced inward toward a common courtyard, or open activity area. These clusters probably represented kin groups or extended (related) families. More than 150 pithouses have been excavated at Pueblo Grande, though this number is believed to be only a fraction of the total number of house structures built over the course of ten centuries. By studying the spatial relationship of these houses, archaeologists have been able to determine site growth through time, as well as the internal structure of the Pueblo Grande village. The earliest house built at Pueblo Grande dates to the Pioneer period, ca. A.D. 450. Only a few houses were occupied at the site during this period, however, and it was not until the following Colonial period (ca. A.D. 750-900) that a village existed at Pueblo Grande.
Although the Hohokam always built pithouses, during the Classic period (A.D.1150-1450) aboveground houses became much more prevalent. Instead of being constructed of wood and mud, these square or rectangular houses were built of coursed-adobe, which was essentially mud stacked in layers with stone sometimes used at the base of the wall. As with pithouses, the roofs of these structures were still constructed of wooden beams interlaced with sticks, saguaro ribs, and grasses. Mud was placed over these materials creating a roof that also served as a floor for some multi-storied structures. Most Hohokam aboveground structures were built adjacent to each other in clusters, as were the earlier pithouses. However, the aboveground structures were surrounded by an adobe wall, creating an apartment-like complex. As many as 20 domestic compounds have been found at Pueblo Grande, most of them located north and east of the massive platform mound. These compounds contained up to 17 rooms each and may have housed as many as 35 people. Together, the residential compounds at Pueblo Grande were home to about 1,000 Hohokam.
The Hohokam prepared much of their food in family or communal roasting pits or hornos, which is Spanish for oven. Hohokam hornos were cone-shaped, semi-subterranean features in which food was baked. A fire was built in the bottom of the pit and then smothered. A layer of stones was then placed on top of the smoldering fire. The food to be cooked was placed on top of the heated stones between layers of grass and dirt, and another fire was built on top. In this way the horno acted like an oven, heating the food from the top and bottom.
Remains of agave hearts and cholla buds are commonly found in hornos excavated by archaeologists, suggesting that the Hohokam baked those plants. Interestingly, animal bones are usually scarce or altogether lacking in hornos. Instead, meat was probably roasted over open fires or cooked in pots in small quantities.
It has been suggested that Hohokam hornos may have been used for more than just preparing food for a few families. Some hornos are quite large, measuring as much as 10 feet (3 m) in diameter and almost 8 feet (2.5 m) in depth. The large quantity of food cooked in these ovens could have been used in ceremonial feasts associated with ritual events that took place within a village on special occasions.
Trash mounds, although not formal domestic architecture, are the direct result of domestic activities. Like all societies throughout history, the Hohokam had to dispose of their refuse. Typically, they deposited their trash in certain locations adjacent to residential precincts within their villages. Because these disposal areas were sometimes used for hundreds of years, trash deposits formed large mounds, some reaching heights of 6 feet (2 m) or more. A trash mound excavated by Albert Schroeder at Pueblo Grande in the late 1930s was 118 feet (36 m) wide and 164 feet (50 m) long, with trash deposits recovered to a depth of 8 feet (2.5 m).
Hohokam trash mounds provide a sort of time capsule that reflects the occupational history of a village. Since trash was deposited in layers, excavation of those layers, if undisturbed, reveals a chronology of change through time in material culture at the site. Thus, a temporal sequence can be established, with the earliest trash located at the bottom of the mound and the latest trash at the top of the mound. Changes in ceramic styles can be determined from an analysis of the trash, which is partially composed of large quantities of broken pottery vessels, called sherds by archaeologists.
To control pests and odor emanating from the mounds, the Hohokam appear to have occasionally burned debris and capped the mounds with clean desert soil. Because of this practice, perishable materials such as food remains are often preserved in the trash mounds. Emil Haury, one of the pioneers of Hohokam archaeology, proposed that the capping of trash mounds at the site of Snaketown, located next to the Gila River, eventually led to the development of platform mounds.
At Pueblo Grande, three large trash mounds and many smaller ones were built up over centuries of occupation at the village. In 1925, Erich Schmidt of the American Museum of Natural History excavated one of those trash mounds (Trash Mound No. 2), located under the present Pueblo Grande Museum building. Schmidt's work revealed a long occupational sequence, which he used for his doctoral dissertation at Columbia University, the first one on Hohokam prehistory. An interesting find by Schmidt was a copper bell, the only one thus far discovered at Pueblo Grande. Copper bells are rare items and were imported from Mexico, suggesting trade relations between the Hohokam and cultures to the south.