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The Two Hohokams

Archaeology and the Pimas agree that at the end of their era the Hohokam enclosed some parts of their settlements with clay walls and that some of the walled areas contained multistory clay buildings. The first Spanish explorers found these structures in ruins. They called them "great houses" (casas grandes ), a term that archaeologists retain. Since the nineteenth century and perhaps since the conquest, the Pimas have called these buildings wa:paki , an etymologically untransparent word that I translate as "great-house."

The Smith-Allison text on the Hohokam conquest is a story of battles at successive great-houses. Since the narrated battle places correspond to archaeologically known great-houses (I will use the hyphenated spelling for both the archaeologists' and the Pimas' usages), one may think that the narrative is an accurate memory.

There is reason to doubt this, and doubt is all that I recommend. When we come to the conquest portion of the Smith-Allison text, we will review all the known versions of this war. We will see that there are only two accounts of a long, drawn-out march through archaeological places, that of Smith-Allison and that of another Pima, Thin Leather, whose mythology was well recorded shortly after the turn of the twentieth century.[3] There are, however, several accounts that present a specific earthly conflict with


cosmic overtones, rather than a grand territorial sweep. These other versions seem no less plausible as origin stories than the grand territorial ones. The cosmic overtones are present in both sorts of texts. One can equally believe that the grand territorial, archaeologically interesting texts are latter-day enlargements in a spirit of militarism or that the others are forgetful.

The balance tips toward the latter-day enlargement theory when a pair of older Pima texts is considered, one from 1694 and the other from 1775. Here there is a single great-house, as if there were just one, and there is no conquest whatever. These texts are discussed in a prelude to the Smith-Allison text.

Briefly, to understand the differences between the older and both sorts of the more recent mythologies, one must leave aside the archaeologically detectable great-houses and take up the chiefly persons who the Pimas say lived in them; and one must ask why and by whom those chiefs were or were not attacked. The key is the absence in the older texts of the idea, present in all the later texts, that the Hohokam were conquered because they had killed the god who made them. The god returned to life, journeyed to the underworld, and summoned the Pima-Papago, or a portion of them, to avenge his death.

Those matters will be explored as we proceed story by story through the Smith-Allison mythology, annotating it and supplementing it with other stories from the Pima-Papago. The exploration will not preclude the possibility of an actual past place-by-place conquest of Pima-Papago by Pima-Papago. But the exploration will diminish our text's standing as reliable history while letting it shine as theology and as passionate, historically conscious literature, in other words, as myth. As for my own opinion on what could have happened in Hohokam history, I repeat that all the stories or myths on this subject should be taken as good faith histories, that is, as stories that were offered by their tellers as true. Each myth might, could, and should be true as far as its teller was concerned; and thus I assume that no story was ever intentionally falsified, neither in tellings to Indians nor in transmission to a white recorder.[4]

Now, without going into detail, I say that all the stories


on the Hohokam cannot be true. They are a collection of alternative and more or less contradictory good faith histories. Finally, I note that the stories have events that I find difficult to believe, such as the god's resurrection and the ascent of the Pima-Papago from the underworld. Of course, my own Christian white people have stories that are equally difficult to believe. All accounts of mystical or supernatural things are of that nature.[5]

I do not suppose that the mystical parts of the stories will ever be proved. All our efforts at proof will concern nonmystical matters such as whether some or all of the Hohokam could have spoken a fifteenth-century form of Pima-Papago, whether all the Hohokam great-houses were destroyed or abandoned within a short period, and whether the Hohokam were more numerous, politically more centralized, and socially more stratified (with inherited differences in wealth) than the Pima-Papago of 1600 or 1900.

Simply, I cannot answer most of these questions, but I think that progress can be made toward that goal. Let me now propose a bit of an answer. As will be seen below, archaeologists believe that the great-houses only existed during the final period of a long, thousand-year, Hohokam history. Pima-Papago mythologies differ from accepted archaeological thought in that they do not grant a long temporal existence to the Hohokam. But mythology and archaeology might come together on one point, that the great-house time was troubled by warfare, specifically, that the walls around residential compounds and the large mud buildings such as Casa Grande (see below) were built for defense. I believe that archaeologists would agree that these structures would serve for defense, but it would be a further step for them to argue that the structures would not have been built except for defense. Relevant considerations would be whether the pre-great-house Hohokam had the ability to make such constructions but did not do so because the defense motive was lacking and whether some nondefense motive (storage, residential, religious) would justify the late architecture. I am not sure that these questions can be answered decisively, and I admit that they


leave out the question of defense against whom (other great-house communities image mountain-based raiders image), but I offer them as thoughts on the nonmystical conciliation of Pima-Papago mythology and archaeology. Needless to say, they are offered because I believe the mythologies could have a base, if not their sole basis, in nonmystical local fifteenth-century fact.

Such are my proposals relative to the Hohokam problem. Let us now briefly review the history of Hohokam archaeology, up to, including, and after the Snaketown excavations. This review is in no sense a methodological or technical summary of that archaeology, which has now been augmented by thousands of dedicated workers. I simply wish to give the uninitiated reader a sketch of the field.

Snaketown was the third systematic excavation into the Hohokam. The first was in 1886–1888 under the leadership of Frank H. Cushing, famed for his study of Zuni religion. The second, in 1906–07 and 1907–08, was led by J. W. Fewkes, a veteran of Hopi studies. The first excavation produced extensive materials but no clear ideas on the origin, duration, and fate of the Hohokam. Archaeology's great dating technique, the stratigraphic removal of materials, was not employed. The second expedition did not use that technique either, and after twenty years of progress since Cushing in Southwest archaeological survey, in studying Spanish documents, and in collecting Pima mythologies, Fewkes found himself in agreement with the Pimas in their maddening, not necessarily true, picture of the end of the Hohokam. He believed that the Hohokam stopped making large, mud-walled great-houses and mud house compounds, that they abandoned the dozen-odd[6] great-house settlements in which they had lived, and that they emigrated north and south, to Mexico and northern Arizona. Some also stayed where they were. Those who stayed became the Pima-Papago (Fewkes 1912: 152, 153–54).

Both the Cushing and Fewkes excavations concentrated on great-houses, Cushing at a location called Los Muertos (The Dead) in today's Tempe, Arizona, and Fewkes at Casa Grande (Great House) near today's town of Coolidge. These were indeed impressive ruins, with walls as thick as


seven feet surrounding their constituent subunits or compounds and with some individual buildings as large as forty by sixty feet at the base and as tall as three stories (25 ft.).

By the time of the Snaketown excavations and evermore after those diggings, the great-houses were understood as the final flourishes of a long-standing and much more modest mode of Hohokam village life. This mode started around A.D. 1 and went through four periods ("Pioneer," "Colonial," "Sedentary," and "Classic"), each with from one to four distinct subphases.[7] The modest life was housed in freestanding, single-room, brush-walled, dirt-roofed buildings, which were much like (not identical with) those of the historic Pimas. Lacking were the football field-sized, house-aggregating compounds, and lacking too were the multistory prominences with which the terminal Hohokam graced some but not all of their compounds. Present, however, almost from the start, were open, oval-shaped, mound-surrounded, flat-floored "ball courts" and long irrigation canals. Those public features were also present in the great-house period. Thus, Snaketown, which generally lacked Classic period remains, had ball courts and canals but lacked great-houses (Haury 1976: 351–357).

The Snaketown excavators concluded that the final period great-house constructors left suddenly, which was also Fewkes's opinion. But the Snaketown archaeologists also believed that the great-house people, or practice, had entered and commenced suddenly. They traced the practice to a core area to the north and east of the Hohokam, called the Salado. Possibly, then, the great-houses were Salado colonies. (No Pima-Papago mythology has said this.) Finally, the Snaketown excavators, like Fewkes, felt the Pimas were probably descended from the Hohokam, specifically, from the majority of the Hohokam who had lived in free-standing houses.

The principal archaeological interpreters of Snaketown were Harold Gladwin and Emil Haury. There has been considerable work on the Hohokam since 1935, including an important return excavation of Snaketown by Haury in 1964–65 (published 1976); and many other archaeologists, including Hayden, who wrote the Smith-Allison mythol-


ogy, have contributed findings and interpretations on the origin, duration, and end, or historic persistence, of the Hohokam. My impression is that the sequence of periods and phases established by Gladwin and Haury is still considered valid and that their idea of a long in situ development and a short great-house intrusion is still taken as most probable.[8]

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