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  are fertilizer dehydration basins. These are the Hohokam design for concentrating lightning rainfall, waste material and blue-green algae to produce soluble nitrates which could be delivered in either a liquid or dried form to the most desirable crops. I believe it is very likely that they used this fertilizer to enhance the sugar content in corn meant for brewing Tesquino (corn beer). This concept is worthy of further archaeological testing and debate. Simple stratigraphy test cores on unexcavated ballcourts should be sufficient to ascertain the potential for the proposal that the Hohokam used this shape to produce fertilizer.

Mound Builders -Chaco Canyon Anasazi - From Pueblo and Hopi ethnographic information the Chaco Canyon Anasazi have previously been assumed to be a culture whose religion was centered in the Kiva. My observation is that the Chaco Canyon Anasazi and others were a mound building culture like the rest of the highly complex cultures across North America during that same era.

Small “Kivas” or round rooms are granaries and large “Kivas” are corn processing rooms and perhaps are large communal kitchens used to prepare food and I believe corn beer “tesquino” for religious festivals. After C.E. 1275 Katsina religious beliefs transformed these round rooms into religious chambers in areas outside Chaco Central.

Noted archaeologist Thomas C. Windes records extensive mounds at the McPhee Pueblo (C.E. 860) which had an abnormally large outside midden, reaching more than three feet in depth. At Casa del Rio, located along the Chaco River, the multiple “midden” (platform mound) is more impressive: it reaches 16 feet above the surrounding terrain, and makes up an estimated 2230 cubic yards of material and is visible for miles around... in the mid-late 1000s, a highly visible and appealing type of agriculture came into vogue. Chacoan characteristics included core-and-veneer masonry, up to four stories, kivas built within the house construction, a giant kiva in a plaza or nearby, and a large mound or midden.

The map published of the Casa del Rio (In Search of Chaco, Noble/Windes, p19) shows an almost Paquimé layout of mounds, ponding areas, and potholes. The association of mounds and ponding areas is quite unique in the Anasazi area as far as I have been able to discover.

Other known Chaco era sites with high and extensive mounds are H-Spear (C.E. 1050-1150) (Mahoney) and Edge of the Cedars (C.E. 900-1150) (Hurst) where, Hurst observes, “Rubble mound rose more than 10 feet high with intact masonry rising into a second story.” Still others are Guadalupe Ruin (Durand, Durand), Lake Valley, Willow Canyon, Great Bend (Winds), and Andrews (Van Dyke).
Archaeologist Dennis Gilpin (SWCA Environmental Consultants, personal interview 4/22/05) states at least four great houses have large middens which may have been mounds. These include the Chambers Great House, Navajo Springs, Tse Chi Zzi (Black Mesa) and the Bluff Great House, all dating to the same time period (C.E. 1050-1150).

I note that most archaeologists that I have interviewed agree that great houses from this time period were built to be seen from a distance. Many, if not most, of these great houses have what has been identified as a large “trash midden” in front. I question the Anasazi would build a great house that was meant “to be seen from a distance” and then put a trash mound right outside the front door. I suggest that these are platform mounds.

Since the predominant material in this region is sand, the platform mounds have eroded into rounded hillocks. There are some pottery shards scattered throughout the mound material as might be expected. I further observe that burials are commonly found in mounds and are very infrequently, if ever, found in kivas.

I was asked the question recently, why did they bury their people in trash heaps? My answer is, they buried their people in their religious structures which were ceremonial platform mounds, and as round rooms are granaries and food preparation chambers, there are few if any buri
als in these areas.

  I would highlight that worldwide, humans bury their dead in religious buildings and not in areas where food is stored. Burials are a primary factor in analyzing the use of constructed space.

Recently, two pyramids have been discovered by archaeologists in central Chaco Canyon (Friedman, Stein, Blackhorse). This team has also identified five other pyramid sites that they believe to be Chacoan. I would suggest that these may more accurately be called “platform mounds.”

copyright 2005 - Richard D Fisher -