“Snaketown and Other Sites”
Authors: Dr Roberto Peron, Barb Benson, Rob L.
Snaketown appears to have been the northern capital of the Hohokam (northern Toltec). It is located near San Tan, Arizona in side the Hohokam Pima National Monument. This is just south of modern-day Phoenix. Researchers estimate that this site may have once been home to over 2000 people! The site was excavated in the 1930s and 1960s and those excavations revealed that Snaketown was inhabited from approximately 300 BC until around 1200 AD. After the excavation in the 1960s the site was completely buried again by archaeologists so nothing is visible above ground any longer.
Among other things the excavations revealed that Snaketown had two ball courts and numerous mounds (buried pyramids?). It had a rather large central plaza and several large pueblos and hundreds of residential houses. To look at it and if you didn’t know better you’d swear this site came right out of Mayan and Toltec country! It is something one would not expect to see in southern Arizona, USA at all.
The Hohokam were primarily farmers and I’ve already mentioned their fantastic canal system parts of which are still in use today in Phoenix. These canals were used for crop irrigation and they came off of the Gila and Salt Rivers. Something worth noting is that a few centuries ago the Gila River was so big ans so deep that ships could travel on it! That’s amazing and in case you’re interested the Gila is still pretty fantastic to see today as is the Salt River. These rivers flow into the Colorado River which is basically the Amazon of the American Southwest. The Colorado flows into the Sea of Cortez which opens into the Pacific Ocean. If the Hohokam used boats or canoes this watercourse would have been no problem to navigate and they could have easily had a sea route into or near Snaketown. However, no evidence of this has yet been found.
Montezuma’s Well is another Hohokam site that is thrilling to see. This site is south of Flagstaff. Archaeologists and historians ascribe it to the Sinaqua BUT construction was begun in 600 AD by the HOHOKAM! So Montezuma’s Well is really a Hohokam site. The Sinaqua came later or they may have been remnants of Hohokam who stayed in the area after the fall of the northern Toltec Empire! Empire? YOU BET! And it was nothing short of an empire in my opinion especially when you add it to the main Toltec culture at Tula in Mexico.
Montezuma’s Well has a constant and consistent supply of WARM water! Today over 1.4 million gallons of water flow into the well DAILY and this rate doesn’t appear to fluctuate even during drought! The well’s water runs into a “swallet” which is an underground passage. It emerges on the other side of a hill where it enters into a Hohokam canal and joins the Beaver River. This canal is 3 feet deep and runs for over 5 miles. The community of Rimrock, AZ relies on this water for their crops and livestock so, again, Hohokam canals are still in use in this 21st century and those canals rival anything found in Egypt or China!! These were not a simple farming people. The Hohokam were a people with a magnificent amount of knowledge about water-works and engineering and ALL of the evidence we find associated with these ancient northern Toltec support this assertion 100%!!
Montezuma’s Well also features a sinkhole! They Maya called these things “cenote.” The Maya believed they were places of emergence from the underworld. The Mayan site called Chichen Itza was constructed on the site of a cenote. The Mayans believed these cenote (sinkholes) were linked to their creation myths. Additionally, the Yavapai people claim they came into the world via emerging from one of the many sinkholes in the US southwest. The Hopi also hold the same stories of how they emerged from underground. There is also a ball court at the foot of Sacred Mountain at the well’s site which has been classified by Anthropologist David Wilcox (1991) as being from the Early Classical Period of the Hohokam. This ball court has been dated at 1075-1250 AD.
Casa Grande is another magnificent Hohokam site located between Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona. It, like that found at the Wupatki site north of Flagstaff, is dominated by a four-story structure built by the Hohokam. The wood used in this construction consists of pine and mesquite brought from 50 miles away. The “big house” contains some 640 wooden beams! This “big house” is made of caliche, basically lime rich mud that is like cement when it hardens. Today the “big house” is covered by a large metal roof to keep it from eroding because when water is added to this caliche it softens it and the house could collapse.
Some of the early explorers and excavators viewed Casa Gande’s big house as some sort of temple. Frank Hamilton Cushing believed its floor plan included the pattern which is created by the Hopi during their ceremonies for consecrating their cornfields. There also appears to have been a common unit of measurement employed at Casa Grande known as the “megalithic yard” (2.75 to 2.80 feet). When applied to the big house it makes it almost a perfect rectangle!
The Toltec were a fantastic people who came before the Aztec and the Maya. The northern Toltec (Hohokam) were just as fantastic in my opinion. These people were far, far from being the native “savages” we’ve made them out to be! In fact, they were building planned communities and achieving magnificent engineering feats that rival anything found in the Old World. In upcoming posts we’ll take a closer look at the Toltec and their sites in Mexico and in Part 4 we’ll continue our look at some other Hohokam sites in the American Southwest so stay tuned……….
Wupatki: a Toltec outpost? by Philip Coppens: