Pueblo Grande Archaeological Park
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Like Rome’s Forum or Beijing’s Forbidden City, this is where the modern metropolis of Phoenix honors the ancient foundations from which it rose. Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park (4619 E. Washington St., 602/495-0901, www.pueblogrande.com, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 1–5 p.m. Sun., closed Sun. and Mon. May–Sept., $6 adults, $3 children 6–17) is the site of a Hohokam village that stood here from about A.D. 100 to 1400, supporting as many as 1,000 people.
It now sits in the middle of a desert metropolis, but the valley looked quite different then, when water flowing through the Salt River fed lush plants along its banks, as well as a complex system of canals that irrigated crops. Those well-engineered waterways would serve as a framework for the rebirth of Phoenix in the 1860s—and today’s canals still parallel their original paths.
The Hohokam lived in wood-framed homes, built over shallow pits and covered with adobe. Because these natural materials were so vulnerable to erosion, none of Phoenix’s early dwellings still exist, though you’re now able to go inside full-size replicas of these adobe pit houses. You can also see an excavated ballcourt and an example of an adobe compound, homes that families would surround with large walls to create private courtyards—a practice adopted into Mexican architecture and modern suburban housing developments.
The recently renovated museum highlights the Hohokam’s tools, shell and stone jewelry, and unique red-on-buff pottery. There are also interactive exhibits that examine how archaeologists dig at sites and sort through relics to piece together the history of an ancient civilization.
A warning: There isn’t much shade at the site, so be sure to visit on a cool day or early in the morning.
© Jeff Ficker from Moon Phoenix, Scottsdale & Sedona, 1st edition