The Salado Theory
For many years one of the mainstays of Hohokam archaeology has been the theory that at about A.D. 1300, a puebloan people known as the Salado expanded from their homeland into the Salt and Gila River Basins. They are said to have had their culture centered in the Tonto Basin, from which they expanded until they had completely overrun the territory occupied by the Hohokam (Gladwin 1937:103).
Figure 1. Major drainages of Arizona
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Note about figures
Figure 2. Archaeological sites referenced
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Of the Salado themselves, Haury has aptly summarized the general knowledge concerning them when he says:
To most people the Salado Culture has meant a southern increment of Pueblo people who lived in stone villages with encircling walls known as compounds, who buried their dead, and who made pottery known a Pinto, Gila and Tonto Polychromes. (Haury 1945:205)
Embodied in this are all of the elements in Classic period Hohokam which are listed as being introduced by the invading Salado; [sic] compounds, inhumations, [sic] and polychrome pottery.
In reviewing the previously published descriptions of the Civano phase of the Classic, descriptions which are usually based upon the Salado invasion theme, it is immediately evident that there is a great deal of confusion and differences of opinion among the proponents of the Salado theory. The confusion is great enough that one author will seemingly contradict himself in the same article.
Gladwin, in 1937 wrote:
It seems to be very queer that such an amalgamation could have taken place without bloodshed, but such seems to the case. There is no evidence whatever of the Hohokam having moved out as the Salado came in; the two cultures developed side by side and strangely enough do not seem to have exercised any perceptible influence on one another. (Gladwin 1937:104)
Hayden wrote however, that as the Salado moved in, they completely took control of the villages, canals and the cultivated lands of the Hohokam, completely submerging the Hohokam except for canal building, irrigation and cremation (Hayden 1957:195). Hayden also wrote that in the Salt and Gila River Valleys, the Salado first occupied the Soho villages "as would be expect [sic - check this] in a merger of the two peoples." (Hayden 1957:195). What Hayden wrote would hardly represent a lack of "perceptible influence" as envisaged by Gladwin. Also, the complete submerging of the Hohokam is difficult to reconcile with the concept of "merger."
Haury wrote that the Salado reached the area of the Gila Bend (Haury 1945:207). On a map (Haury 1945:206) the greatest expansion of the Salado is indicated as including most of the Verde drainage, and the entire Agua Fria and Hassayampa drainages. From the Gila Bend area, the greatest push of the Salado is indicated by a line trending in a Southeasterly direction, into Northern Mexico. Refer to Fig. 3.
Figure 3. Hypothesized greatest reach of the Salado, circa ce 1350
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At variance with the immediately preceding and one of the conclusions reached as a result of the salvage archaeology which was conducted in the Painted Rocks Reservoir area, was the determination that there had never been an occupation of the Gila Bend area by the Salado (Wasley and Johnson 1966:6).
Gila Polychrome, which until recently was considered the hallmark of the Salado, has been found at six sites on the Agua Fria River (Ruppe 1966:6) and at a site on the north side of the Gila River approximately one mile east of the Gila-Agua Fria confluence (Ariz T:11:1 ASU, Site survey Records). However there is very strong evidence that the Agua Fria was not occupied by the Salado, or if it had been, had been in conjunction with another non-Hohokam group (refer to Appendix A).
Apparently the Salado never succeeded in settling in Papagueria (Haury 1950:8).
A completely opposite tack was taken by Charlie Steen. On the basis of the work he did at Compound A, Casa Grande national Monument in 1963, he does not believe that there was an invading group, but that the massive walls and multi-storied buildings were the ideas probably obtained from the South (Steen 1965:80).
Another point upon which there have been conflicting views, is whether 1) the Salado invasion was attended by violence with Hohokam groups; 2) there were mutual enemies of the combined Hohokam-Salado; or 3) no warfare at all. Haury suggests that there was no or very little conflict between the Hohokam and Salado (Haury 1945:208). Gladwin, citing large numbers of trade sherds, maintained that there were trade relations with Chihuahua, Mexico, the pueblos near Flagstaff, Arizona, and with the Hopi country. Because of these trade relations, Gladwin was of the opinion that the Civano phase of the Classic period Hohokam was a time of prosperity and good neighborly relations (Gladwin 1937:104). So much for the peace crowd.
Hayden believes that there were peoples hostile to the Salado, basing this upon cut trade routes and on massive, elaborate, fortifications in the Salt River Valley, even around canal heads (Hayden 1957:196). Hayden also cites Charlie Steen as advancing the idea of inter-village strife to account for the fortifications (Hayden 1957:196).
Carr Tuthill suggests that as a result of the Salado moving into the Hohokam area, no matter how peaceful, that some of the indigenous population would put up resistance in the form of raiding parties. Tuthill goes on to say:
It is this writers contention that the Salado people, and others in the Southwest, were cognizant of such movements as expressed by raiding parties, and that enclosing compound walls were one defense against them. (Tuthill 1947:26-7).
Discussion: From the foregoing, it is readily apparent that, with one exception, the previously discussed authors accepted the hypothesis that a puebloan people known as the Salado, moved into the Salt and Gila River Basins. It is also recognizable that these same authors were not in agreement as to what form this movement took; i.e., a peaceful migration or a military operation. They also do not agree on to what extent this proposed migration affected the cultures of the indigenous Hohokam and the invading Salado.