|U.S. National Register of Historic Places|
|U.S. National Historic Landmark|
|Location:||Gila River Indian Reservation, Arizona|
|Governing body:||Gila River Indian Community|
|Added to NRHP:||July 19, 1974|
|Designated NHL:||April 29, 1964|
The Hohokam Pima National Monument which includes the site known as Snaketown, is the archaeological remains of an ancient Hohokam village in the Gila River Indian Community near present day Sacaton, Arizona. Snaketown was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964. It was further protected by its inclusion in the a National Monument in 1972 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
The site is owned by the Gila River Indian Community which has decided not to open this extremely sensitive area to the public. The museum at the nearby Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, in Coolidge, Arizona, contains artifacts from Snaketown. There is no public access to the Hohokam Pima National Monument.
Snaketown was first excavated in 1934 by the Gila Pueblo Foundation, under the direction of Harold S. Gladwin. Between 1964-1965, a second excavation was led by Emil Haury, Assistant Director of Gila Pueblo, with assistance from E.B. Sayles, Erik K. Reed, and Irwin and Julian Hayden. The two expeditions discovered that the site contained more than sixty midden mounds. A central plaza and two ball courts were surrounded by pit houses, and an elaborate irrigation system fed the nearby fields in which beans, maize and squash were grown. The Hohokam practiced cremation, and the expedition excavated up to eight areas which could have been used as crematoria. Industries producing pottery and shell jewellery also existed and the settlement had trade links with Mesoamerican societies, evidenced by copper bells and figurines.
Most archaeological excavations have been backfilled to protect the site for future research. However, a scale model of the original Snaketown community is held at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, while artifacts from excavations are housed in the Arizona State Museum.
This site is a significant example of the Hohokam culture, which lived in the broader area from about AD 1 until approximately AD 1500. Snaketown, contained in a one-half mile by three-quarters mile piece of property, was occupied by Hohokam people during the Pioneer and Early Sedentary stages (approximately 300 BC to AD 1100). Early in the Classic Period (AD 1150-1400/1450) the community of Snaketown, once apparently central to the broader Hohokam culture, was suddenly abandoned. Parts of its structure were burned, and the site was not reoccupied.
The Hohokam were farmers, even though they lived in an area with dry sandy soil, rugged volcanic mountains and slow running rivers. They grew beans, squash, tobacco, cotton and corn. The Hohokam made the sandy soil fertile by channeling water from the local river through a series of man-made canals. Woven mat dams were used to channel river water into the canals. The canals were generally shallow and wide, reaching up to ten miles in length.
Most of the population lived in pit houses, carefully dug rectangular depressions in the earth with branch and mud adobe walls supported by log sized corner posts. These pit houses were similar to those constructed by the neighboring Mogollon pueblo people, but were larger in size and made with a more shallow depression.
The Mesoamerican inspired ball courts of Snaketown are fascinating features. The ball courts were in the shape of an oval bowl, formed by two parallel banks. Each were about 60 meters long, 33 meters apart, and 2.5 meters high. These embankments did not meet on the ends, but sloped into the ground. The number of ball courts in the settlement increased over time, which suggests that the game/ritual met with increasing favor or that the population increased enough to support more courts.
Snaketown's pottery was generally homogeneous during the periods of its occupation. However, most specialists agree that pottery samples contain elements implying the presence two different, but probably related groups, over time.