Beyond snaketown: Household inequality and political power in early Hohokam society

TitleBeyond snaketown: Household inequality and political power in early Hohokam society
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsCraig, D
Academic DepartmentAnthropology
UniversityUniversity of Arizona
KeywordsArizona, Hohokam, Household inequality, Political power, Prehistoric households, Society

This study examines Pre-Classic Hohokam sociopolitical organization using data collected from recent research in the middle Gila River Valley of southern Arizona. The Pre-Classic period, ca. A.D. 500 to 1150, witnessed the first appearance of extensive irrigation works in the middle Gila River Valley. It also witnessed the introduction of ballcourts as part of a regional ceremonial and exchange system. Archaeologists disagree about the conditions that gave rise to these developments. Some researchers point to the scale of the irrigation works and the apparent need for massive labor coordination to argue for political centralization and the emergence of bureaucratic elites. Others point to the likely use of ballcourts as ritual facilities to argue that ultimate authority was vested in the hands of religious leaders.

The dynamics of power in Hohokam society are examined in this study from the vantage point of a group of households that lived at the Grewe site, the ancestral village to Casa Grande Ruins. Attention is directed to the demographic and environmental conditions that contributed to household inequality at Grewe. New methods are advanced for deriving population estimates and measuring household wealth based on architectural evidence. This information is then used to explore the role of wealthy households in promoting political growth in early Hohokam society. It is argued that the influence of wealthy households extended across multiple social levels and multiple generations.