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Native American Culture and History in the Greater Oro Valley Area

View more information about the earliest inhabitants of the greater Oro Valley region.

The Paleoindian Period includes culture from at least 12,000 years ago. There has essentially been no Paleoindian material recovered in the Tucson Basin, including the Cañada del Oro area.

The Archaic and Early Agricultural Periods began around 10,000 years ago and ended about 4,000 years ago. At least one small Archaic site has been documented in Catalina State Park, just outside the study area.

The defining characteristic of the Formative Period (A.D. 150–1450) has traditionally been a reliance on maize agriculture as the dominant form of sustenance.

The Early Ceramic Period was comprised entirely by the Agua Caliente phase (A.D. 150–450) in the Tucson Basin. It is suggested that the Hohokam culture emerged from Early Ceramic period farmers.

The Hohokam Culture, A.D. 450, reached its greatest areal extent during the Colonial and Sedentary periods, or A.D. 700–1150. Archaeological evidence of the Hohokam disappears at about A.D. 1450.

There were three very important Hohokam sites in the greater Oro Valley region, Romero Ruin, Sleeping Snake and Honey Bee Village.

The Pioneer Period in the Tucson Basin consists of two phases: the Tortolita phase (A.D. 450– 700) and the Snaketown phase (A.D. 700–750). Two of the largest prehistoric sites in the study area, Honey Bee Village (Medrano 2008) and Romero Ruin (Elson and Doelle 1987a), were both founded during this period.

The Colonial Period began around A.D. 750 and ended about A.D. 950. It consisted of the Cañada del Oro and Rillito phases, each approximately 100 years in length. The three largest prehistoric sites in the study area were: Honey Bee Village, Romero Ruin, and Sleeping Snake Village. These were all sites that have provided important information on these phases. All of these sites had at least one ball court.

The Sedentary Period (A.D. 950–1150), was composed entirely of the Rincon phase and is the best-understood part of the Hohokam chronology in the region. Romero Ruin, Honey Bee Village, and Sleeping Snake Village were all still occupied during this time, but not much beyond.

The Classic Period includes the tumultuous transition from the Sedentary Period to the Classic Period (A.D. 1150–1450). The total population of the region peaked in the early Classic Period (or the Tanque Verde Phase, A.D. 1150–1300), but then declined in the late Classic Period (or the Tucson phase, A.D. 1300–1450).

Native Americans of the Protohistoric and Historic Periods. The demise of the Hohokam and other Classic Period traditions, between A.D. 1450 and the European-dominated historic era, was a transition from the prehistoric cultures documented by archaeology to the modern Native American cultures documented by historical sources and ethnographic studies.