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Mesa Hohokam site near Pat's house

This place is near 8th Street between Alma School and Country Club close to a big hospital! They had a map in the printed edition. But it is easy to find if you look for the hospital. I think it is on the west side of the hospital!


Mesa spruces up Hohokam site, plans tours

Garin Groff, Tribune

November 13, 2009 - 9:35PM

Matt Pavelek, For the Tribune

The city's residents were so driven to open the Mesa Grande ruins to the public that they staged a parade down Main Street to rally support.

The parade was in 1927, and it turned out to be the first failed start that generations of Mesans would face trying to celebrate Hohokam history. Efforts started again in the 1950s, and even more focused work since the 1980s has continued without success.

But the decades of groundwork are paying off as the city is rushing to lay a path through the ruins in the final weeks of this year. Some time next year, Mesa Grande will be ready for the first regular tours to the site pioneers discovered in the 1800s.

No more than 4,000 people have visited the site in the three years Mesa has conducted an annual tour. They're typically surprised at the civilization the ancient people built, said Jerry Howard, anthropology curator at the Mesa Museum of Natural History.

"When they come in, they say, 'I never knew this was here,'" Howard said. "They basically are overwhelmed at what these people did."

The six-acre Mesa Grande site is west of Country Club Road near Brown Road, surrounded by a neighborhood and medical facilities. A mostly undisturbed platform mound the size of a football field rises 27 feet, and it was the center of a 2,000-person village that spanned a mile.

Mesa is looking to spend $47,000 to put a crushed granite path through the site so visitors can walk without damaging the mound.

The city expects to lead tours once or twice a week starting sometime next year. Also, efforts are under way to install structures over ancient rooms that have been excavated, which will prevent erosion as well as define spaces so visitors are drawn to important features.

The city wants to eventually open a small visitor center and add some other amenities, but it is eager to provide some access soon to showcase the history, said Tom Wilson, director of the Mesa Southwest Museum.

"It's one of the few remaining platform mounds in all of Arizona and one of the most significant Hohokam sites in all of Arizona," Wilson said.

Work on the mound began about 1000 A.D. and continued until the Hohokam civilization faded about 1450 A.D. The mound was topped with rooms likely used for religious purposes, and it was near a large ball court and public plaza. More than 2,400 acres of farmland stretched miles from the mound.

The city had once envisioned spending up to $5 million on amenities at the site but has recently considered a more limited effort. The museum's newer plans are less about saving money than about leaving the site as undisturbed as possible.

"It gives you that whole feeling of discovery, something that's unexploited," Howard said.

Visitors who want to see artifacts will need to visit the museum's downtown location, and the site will have only minimal signs to avoid clutter. An audio tour via cell phone or iPod will explain features and is based on the perspectives of the Hohokam and their descendants, European pioneers and archeologists. Mesa doesn't know of any other archeological attraction that's tried to use such a contemporary approach, Howard said.

The audio tour would let visitors learn about topics or features most interesting to them, and a Web site would offer even more.

Some key features of the site are its location near the headwater of major canals that reached as far south as Pinal County. The massive canal system in the Valley enriched the hard desert soil by depositing silt, and early pioneers quickly realized the agricultural possibilities when they discovered them. The canal engineering is impressive even today and speak to the Hohokam's skills, Howard said.

"People in the past really weren't that primitive," Howard said. "They may not have had the technology that we do today, but they had the human mind. Anglo farmers never could have started Phoenix without the blueprint of the Hohokam canals."


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