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Exploring the Ancient Southwest
Permanent Houses and Community Building Projects
By 600 AD the first signs of permanent homes and village life appeared
in the Southwest. Village life and permanent homes in communities brought
the development of more distinct practices unique to each village, knitting
communities together with shared customs and beliefs. Having mastered,
hunting, food gathering, early agriculture, and basket making, the next
step was to invent pit houses.
temporary shelters and caves of the earlier inhabitants were left behind
in favor of man-made permanent shelters called pit houses. In the Southern
Sonoran region, the pit houses had floors dug down into the ground about
one foot deep, vertical wooden poles formed the structure of outer walls,
and smaller branches, reeds and grass were woven horizontally across the
vertical poles and up and over the roof. This woven wall and roof was
then covered with earth on the outside to protect the occupants from sun,
wind and rain. The entrance was usually on the side, with a step down
to the home's floor. A central pole held up the roof's rafters that radiated
overhead from the center out to the sidewalls.
the more northern Mogollon Rim and up onto the northern Colorado Plateau,
the houses were excavated much deeper in the ground, up to 4-6' in depth.
The first entrances through the roof appear, or covered tunnel-ways from
the side lead into the house. These structures used much larger posts
and beams than their southern counterparts. The walls were made of brush
and smaller branches and carried up and over onto the roof. The outside
was sealed with packed earth. These houses provided protection in the
colder weather, including snows. Some had sandstone slabs lining the interior
walls for further comfort and protection.
In Southern Arizona, the Hohokum preferred to live in single homes with
some distance to their neighbors, but still in a village setting that
might cover many miles. In other areas to the north and east, the first
neighborhood close-knit villages were formed and community buildings were
built. Large subterranean meeting rooms that are now called kivas date
to this time period. In these buildings, the signs of a more advanced
society are shown by demonstrating there were public meetings, ceremonies,
and organized group activities so important that they deserved the labor
and material of building large structures. These buildings were used to
unite the village's goals and intentions, reinforcing customs and practices
unique to their community, and at the same time giving them a link to
other villages in the region developing the same architecture and practices.
An amazing engineering feat was begun by the Hohokum in this period in
the Arizona Sonoran desert. Where rain was rare, and rivers were few,
the Hohokum spent many generations designing and creating a complex system
of canals that carried miles and miles to their corn, bean, ad squash
patches. It is estimated that the Hohokum canal system eventually watered
tens of thousands of acres of land from the waters of the Gila and Salt
Rivers. These ingenious canal systems included dams, controllable headgates,
and canals eight miles or longer in length. After the Spring floods as
snowmelt raised the river levels, the farmers got right to work opening
the headgates and channeling the water into reservoirs and then to their
farm lands all summer long.