Archaeologists may never know the exact reasons why the Hohokam culture collapsed after more than a millennium of successful adaptation to the Sonoran Desert, but the Hohokam left an indelible legacy behind for future generations to ponder. The village of Pueblo Grande is one of the last preserved Hohokam villages, and it offers an astonishing look at prehistoric Hohokam society.
Pueblo Grande first appeared in the archaeological record ca. A.D. 500, a few hundred years later than some other villages in the Salt River Valley. Over the next ten centuries Pueblo Grande grew from a small hamlet of a few houses to a village of over 1,000 residents. Although Pueblo Grande was only the second largest village along Canal System Two (the site of Las Colinas was larger), its location at the headwaters of the canal system suggests that it would have had political influence among the other villages of the same canal system.
The large platform mound, multiple ballcourts and the existence of the big house suggest that Pueblo Grande held importance as a Hohokam ceremonial center for the entire Salt River Valley. The massive platform mound with its restricted public access, multiple rooms, and ceremonial features suggest the mound and its compound had a variety of functions that consisted of both sacred and secular activities. A small group of priests may have lived on top of the mound and controlled Hohokam religious practices and other ceremonial activities so important to Hohokam society. The priests and other leaders of the Hohokam, however, were unable to prevent, and may have contributed to, their culture's eventual collapse and abandonment of the village of Pueblo Grande around A.D.1450.
Over a century of archaeological investigations have been conducted at Pueblo Grande which have revealed a wealth of information on the Hohokam (see Next Page). The archaeological ruins of Pueblo Grande are a testament to the cultural achievements of these people. Through archaeology we know that the Hohokam were an artistic, inventive, complex, and resourceful people who were tied closely to the land on which they lived. They built large villages containing ballcourts, massive platform mounds, and residential compounds. To survive in the arid Sonoran Desert, the Hohokam built hundreds of miles of irrigation canals which fed thousands of acres of rich agricultural fields. They were connected to their neighbors through thousands of miles of trade routes and were influenced by the civilizations of Mexico. How they viewed the world around them can be seen through their architecture, crafts, rock art, and in the way they cared for their dead.
There is still much to learn about the Hohokam culture, and Pueblo Grande is in a unique position to answer some of the remaining questions. Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park was created in part for this purpose and is dedicated to the study, proper development, and preservation of this magnificent archaeological site. (For a history of the Museum and Park see pages following.) Through continued preservation and careful study of Pueblo Grande, many aspects of over 1,000 years of Hohokam cultural history will be available for future generations to appreciate.