The prehistory of the Salt River Valley focuses on a unique group, the Hohokam, who developed the largest integrated irrigation systems in the New World. The only society in North America to rely on irrigation agriculture, the study of the Hohokam can provide answers to many of the significant questions in anthropology and archaeology. Why do cultures turn from hunting and gathering to food production to meet their needs? How complex must societies be to organize thousands of people to build and operate irrigation systems?
The Arizona Museum of Natural History and the Southwest Archaeology Team (SWAT), have conducted many excavations through the years to answer these, and other, scientific questions. The excavations are primarily supported by the SWAT volunteers. The projects often focus on sites on private land threatened by construction where no state or federal regulations require excavations and where funds are unavailable to recover information.
The following sections provide information on some of the museum's past excavations. The SWAT group and the museum have a continuing excavation program. To become involved, click on the links section and go to the SWAT website.
AzMNH archaeologist Dr. Jerry Howard
in the field at Mesa Grande.