What were the first major Native American cultures in the Southwest and when did the Hohokam build their villages in Arizona?

In about A.D. 300, people now known as the Hohokam first established large villages along the Gila and Salt Rivers in what is now southern Arizona.

They became successful farmers by digging hundreds of miles of trenches to draw river water to their fields. Their crops included corn, beans, squash, and cotton.

Originally, the Hohokam lived in pit houses, simple dwellings made from a wood-and-mud dome built over a pit dug in the ground. By about 1100, they learned to construct larger, sturdier houses out of clay. Many scientists believe the Hohokam were trading partners with people living in what is now Mexico because they shared some customs with these Indians.

At about the same time the Hohokam were building their first villages, the Mogollon founded their own along mountainous streams in present-day southern Arizona and New Mexico.

Like the Hohokam, they were farmers who lived first in pit houses and later in clay-walled structures. They learned to weave wild grasses into baskets and cotton yarn into blankets and clothing, which they sometimes decorated with feathers. The Mogollon today are best known for their pottery, which they used to store corn and carry water.

Probably the greatest prehistoric Native American potters were the Mogollon of the Mimbres Valley. They painted their pots white, then decorated the surface with red-and-black geometric designs and simple pictures of birds, frogs, and other creatures in their lands.

The Hohokam traded with Indians living along the Gulf of California for shells. They decorated these treasures by etching animal designs into the shell’s surface using the acidic juice of the saguaro cactus.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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