Thursday, November 4, 2021

Hohokam Honey Bee Village in Oro Valley

This article is part of our continuing series by the Oro Valley Historical Society. Future OVHS articles will appear every other Thursday.

Tohono O’odham peoples of the Sonoran desert refer to their ancestors as the Hohokam (Huhugam). Archaeologists believe that this community of people lived in the Gila, Salt and river valleys of southern Arizona from approximately 200 to 1400. 

Honey Bee Village is one of the largest Hohokam sites in the Northern Tucson Basin. It is likely to have been occupied from 750 to 1300 and covered about 75 acres.

The Hohokam were master canal architects and were able to create irrigation systems for their crops tapping the nearby river water. It is estimated that hundreds of miles of canals were used to water their crops of maize, squash, beans and cotton. The Central Arizona Project similarly delivers water throughout the southwest by a canal system.

Established communities of the Hohokam included pithouse dwellings, ball courts (for ball games and social activities), common outdoor ovens and ramadas. Artifacts found in Hohokam villages include pottery vessels with elaborate designs of water birds, lizards, and human figures. Excavations indicate that there may have been wide trading networks as material with shells and stone not native to this area have been found in Hohokam sites.

Honey Bee Village was discovered as Oro Valley development increased. The land containing most of the site was designated for development but the importance of the find precipitated a need for preservation. Thirteen acres were acquired by Pima County as a permanent preserve through a land donation by the owner and Historic Preservation bonds approved by Oro Valley voters.

Honey Bee Village Archaeological Preserve was opened in March 2018 and is located just east of Rancho Vistoso and Moore Road. It is a walking trail loop that is ADA accessible and open to the public.

You can learn more about Honey Bee Village Archaeological Preserve HERE
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This month the Oro Valley Historical Society will feature an exhibit focusing on Native American Heritage. Many residents of Oro Valley are not familiar with the rich heritage of indigenous cultures going back thousands of years. The Pusch House Museum at Steam Pump Ranch will be open on Saturday, November 13 and Saturday, November 27 from 9 to noon. When you visit, be sure to see the facsimile pithouse in the Heritage Garden at Steam Pump Ranch. Find out what’s in your own backyard!