Todd W. Bostwick – “Life and Death at a Hohokam Ballcourt Village in the Northern Tucson Basin”


Close up of clay figurine from Ironwood Village pit structure that dates to the Late Canada del Oro phase.

Nearly 25 years ago, William Doelle and Henry Wallace (1991:290) noted that the early Colonial period was poorly documented in the Tucson Basin. Although more data is now available, the Canada del Oro phase still remains one of the least investigated Hohokam phases. Recent excavations by PaleoWest Archaeology in southern Marana at the Ironwood Village site (AZ AA:12:226 ASM) will add new data on the Colonial period occupation of the Tucson Basin.

Ironwood Village was first recorded as part of the Northern Tucson Basin Survey and identified as a Pioneer and Colonial period habitation site. Excavations by PaleoWest have confirmed that assessment, but also discovered a previously unknown ballcourt that was not visible on the surface. In addition, the site is considerably larger than anticipated, with 113 pit structures and 264 burials recorded during excavation of a 7-acre area.  A previously investigated Pioneer-Colonial period village, the Redtail-Lonetree site (Bernard-Shaw 1989, 1990; Lindeman 2011),  is located on the west side of the Santa Cruz River, and the presence of a ballcourt village on the east side of river forces us to re-examine of the settlement dynamics for this part of the Tucson Basin.

The Ironwood Village ballcourt was excavated in its entirety. In the middle of the ballcourt was a high-status cremation burial that may represent the closing of the ballcourt related to the abandonment of the village during the late Rillito phase. So where did the Ironwood Village inhabitants move? The best candidate is Los Morteros (Wallace 1995), located only 3 km to west. This and other research questions will be examined with data from the Ironwood Village excavations.

Posted in:Events, Lectures