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Are you looking to see some ancient ruins, but only have your lunch break to do so? Fear not, Phoenix has several easily accessible ancient sites within its borders. The largest public site is Pueblo Grande Museum and Ruins. Located in Phoenix just northwest of Sky Harbor International Airport, Pueblo Grande represents the largest, best-preserved Hohokam Platform Mound still surviving in Arizona today.
The trail starts just outside the museum, on the west side of the platform mound. Built of caliche and filled with ancient trash, it is suspected that these mounds were the residences of local leaders and religious figures. There are features found on the top of this mound (and others like it) that support this conclusion, such as the presence of solstice markers. The trail is paved and has metal markers describing some of the items you are looking at. In addition to the platform mound loop, there is an optional loop around some unexcavated ruins, and some reconstructed pithouses, and an adobe house compound that you can enter. There's also a ballcourt at the NW corner of the loop, and a Hohokam garden and agave-roasting oven. From the top of the platform mound, you can get a good idea of what has changed since the Hohokam left the valley in the 1400s. Directly to the south, Union Pacific trains rumble by. A modern diversion canal follows the route of an ancient Hohokam one. The roar of landing jets arriving at sky harbor is a constant reminder of how far technology has come. The site is bordered on two sides by freeways. Ancient portions of the Pueblo Grande site have been lost to these modern developments.
Inside the museum, there are excellent displays. One focuses on the Hohokam culture. Its rise and fall are chronicled by photos, artifacts, and both Native and Archeologic commentary. There is a large wall map that shows part of the extent of the Phoenix-area Hohokam. It's quite remarkable, superimposing that map onto modern Phoenix, how far-flung they were. There is also a rotating exhibit gallery that is usually very interesting. During my last visit, it was a display on early ariel photography used in surveying Hohokam ruins in Phoenix.
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