July 11, 2005

Arizona Archaeologists Find Hohokam Canals

PHOENIX (AP) -- Archaeologists working at a proposed development site in Mesa say they have unearthed one of the largest integrated canal systems the Hohokam Indians ever built in the Phoenix area.

Twenty Hohokam canals, uncovered during an ongoing archaeological survey of the 240-acre site, have been found since October. The largest measures 45 feet wide and 16 feet deep.

"They are the size of canals in Phoenix today, but these were done with digging sticks and baskets," said Tom Wilson, an archaeologist and director of the Mesa Southwest Museum. "There are some extraordinary things there."

Other archaeological remains were also found, including a half-dozen pit houses and hundreds of pottery fragments and artifacts.

Historians believe the Hohokam lived in central and southern Arizona for about 1,500 years, sometime between 300 B.C. and A.D. 1400. They were a largely agricultural community known for their sophisticated canal systems.

The city could pay up to $250,000 for the archaeological study but would be reimbursed by the developers.

A portion of collected artifacts will be displayed at Banner Mesa Medical Center later this fall. And next May, the Mesa Southwest Museum will unveil a major Hohokam exhibit that will feature finds from the site, Wilson said.

City Manager Mike Hutchinson said talks are also ongoing with the developers to incorporate part of what has been found at the site into the project.

"It's an important finding and cultural asset for the whole state in terms of what it tells us," Hutchinson said.