An archaeological site containing the remains of a Hohokam settlement dates back to a rarely explored Hohokam era, according to recent dating.
The settlement in Queen Creek, just southeast of Phoenix, has preliminarily been dated between 1400 and 1450, which could make it one of the latest settlements of the mysterious desert dwellers ever identified.
Hohokams are believed to have inhabited the Sonoran Desert between 500 and 1450 before they abruptly disappeared.
But while scholars believe the population of Hohokam declined after 1350 or so, ''we seem to have a pretty thriving location'' in Queen Creek, said Banks Leonard, senior project director for Soil Systems Inc., a Phoenix archaeology company. ''Nonetheless, it was abandoned, too, eventually.''
The Hohokam society appeared to break down toward the end of its existence, with the economy and culture falling apart as the population dwindled, according to experts.
The Hohokam had used up natural resources, such as firewood and plants, and had exhausted prime farming soil.
Leonard said the Hohokam way of life ''had a negative impact on the environment,'' even though they appeared to be in touch with the land.
Archaeologists have done exploratory work in the area of the Queen Creek location, called the Germann site, since the 1930s, but the dating that showed it may have been one of the earliest settlements was only done recently.
A large adobe-walled compound, pottery styles, radiocarbon data and archaeological magnetic dating helped identify the time period.
Based on an early analysis, the adobe compound would be the largest construction by the Hohokam that late in their existence, Leonard said.
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