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THE HOHOKAM PEOPLE

The Hohokam lived in southern Arizona from c.100 BC to c.AD 1400. Most of the people lived in the fertile Gila river valley. About 800 they expanded their settlements - the largest is now called Snaketown - and were influenced by civilizations to their south in Mexico. This is seen in their pottery, weaving, and the ballcourts they built to play Mexican ball games. Houses were built of wattle and daub, set in shallow pits. After 1400 the sites were abandoned, leaving few traces. Archaeologists do not know where the people went, so they have named the culture 'Hohokam', meaning 'those who have vanished'.

The irrigation canals that Hohokam farmers dug to water their fields enabled them to grow two crops a year, one in the spring when melted winter snow swelled the river, and another in late summer when heavy rains fell. Their crops included corn, tobacco, beans, and cotton. Hohokam farmers used mats of woven fibre to dam the canals. These served to divert the flow of water from one area of land to another.

Red and buff-coloured pottery, decorated with animal or figure designs, was produced in Hohokam workshops. The patterns on Hohokam textiles were influenced by artists of Mexican civilizations.

The Hohokam invented etching with acid. They etched shells obtained through trade with west coast tribes. Pitch was painted on shells in the shape of an animal. The shell was soaked in a weak acid solution, which ate away the unpainted shell surface, leaving a raised design underneath the pitch. They also used the acidic juice of the saguaro cactus fruit, found in the Arizona desert.



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