Hohokam Pima National Monument recognizes the significance of Snaketown, a Hohokam village inhabited from about 300 AD to around 1200 AD. This ancient village, which may have had as many as 2,000 inhabitants, is within the Gila River Indian Reservation near Sacaton, Arizona.
Snaketown was excavated in the 1930s by the Gila Pueblo Foundation and again in the 1960s under the direction of Emil Haury, Assistant Director of Gila Pueblo. After the 1960’s work, the site was backfilled to protect it for future research, leaving nothing visible above ground. The excavations revealed that the Hohokam of southern Arizona were one of the main cultural groups of the Southwest. The site also contained information that indicated that the Hohokam people were strongly influenced by cultural groups in Mexico. Mexican cultural groups introduced patterns of “urban style” living to the Hohokam people who earlier lived in scattered rancherias around the region. Snaketown provided evidence of the “urban style” of living the Hohokam culture embraced with its central plaza, two oval shaped fields surrounded by pit houses, an elaborate irrigation system, crematoriums, and places for inhabitants to produce pottery and jewelry.
Most of the Hohokam population lived in pit houses constructed in a manner similar to that of the Mogollon pit houses. Pit houses were carefully dug, shallow and rectangular depressions in the earth that were constructed of logs covered in reeds, saplings, and mud. The pit houses at Snaketown were situated around two oval shaped fields thought to be ball courts. The ball courts are each about 60 meters long, 33 meters apart, and 2.5 meters high.
The extensive irrigation canal systems throughout Snaketown fed water to the nearby fields where residents grew beans, maize, squash, corn, cotton, melons, and other fruits. The irrigation canals were generally shallow and wide (on average 10 feet deep and 30 feet wide), and they reached up to ten miles in length. The Hohokam used woven mats as dams to channel and control the flow of water throughout the irrigation system. In addition to growing crops, the Hohokam hunted wild game and traded locally for other food items to supplement their diets. The extensive irrigation systems and trade with other local tribes permitted the Hohokam to have a more sedentary lifestyle and enabled them to settle in large population centers like Snaketown. Within these large population centers, the making of Hohokam art, pottery, and jewelry flourished.
Hohokam Pima National Monument, which is under the ownership of the Gila River Indian Reservation, preserves this significant piece of American Indian cultural heritage. Due to the sensitive nature of this site, the Gila River Indian Community has decided not to open this site to the public. There is no public access to the Hohokam Pima National Monument.
Hohokam Pima National Monument is located on the Gila River Indian Reservation, AZ and is not open to the public. The Arizona State Museum, located in Tucson AZ, has information and artifacts from Snaketown. For more information, visit the National Park Service’s Hohokam Pima National Monument website or call 520-723-3172.