Casa Grande Ruins


Casa Grande Ruins National Monument perserves the remains of an ancient Hohokam farming village.


Early Spanish explorers called this structure Casa Grande. The "Big House" was made of caliche (cuh-LEE-chee), a concrete-like mixture of sand, clay, and limestone. It took 3,000 tons to build the Big House, whose walls were four feet thick at the base.


Sixty feet long, this four story high 'apartment' house was completed prior to 1350. It functioned as an accurate astronomical observatory, storehouse for grains and foodstuffs, a lookout post, and living quarters. It was part of a larger city of dwellings that surrounded it.


Its walls face the four cardinal points of the compass. A circular hole in the upper west wall aligns with the setting sun during the summer solstice. Other openings also align with the sun and moon at specific times. These ancient people also had irrigration canals from the Gila River. Yet in the 1400's, Hohokam culture ebbed. In fact, their name comes from the nearby Pima Indians, and means "all gone" or "all used up." What happened to these people is a mystery to this date.

Note of January, 2008
I read a New York Times article which concerns mysteries like this. Last Fall, at Dragoon's Amerind Foundation a seminar was held by a group of archaeologists, cultural anthropologists and historians concerning “Choices and Fates of Human Societies.” Patricia A. McAnany, an archaeologist at Boston University, who organized the seminar, gave new insights into this:

"At the seminar, Dr. McAnany suggested that the very idea of societal collapse might be in the eye of the beholder. She was thinking of the Maya, whose stone ruins have become the Yucatan’s roadside attractions. But the descendants of the Maya live on. She recalled a field trip by local children to a site she was excavating in Belize: “This little girl looks up at me, and she has this beautiful little Maya face, and asks, ‘What happened to all the Maya? Why did they all die out?’” No one visits Stonehenge, she noted, and asks whatever happened to the English."
Quoted from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/25/science/25diam.html.

How much more hopeful to think "They simply moved on!"


An example of Hokokam classic-era pottery.

(first version December 12, 1998 edited January 8, 2008, photos © Joan Ann Lansberry)
Return to Adventures In Arizona
Photo Gallery Index
Home