A reader of my recent article Mesquite Trees Provide Food and a Pharmacy, offered some speculative information about the Hohokam uses of Mesquite trees.
The Hohokam were native people who occupied Arizona from near Flagstaff, south to the Mexican border, during the period approximately 200 B.C. to 1450 A.D. They built an extensive network of canals near what is now Phoenix.
Richard D. Fisher, who apparently is a writer on archaeological subjects, speculates that the Hohokam built their canal network specifically to grow mesquite trees.
“The Hohokam canal system was probably built primarily for the cultivation of a mesquite bosque. It has been long questioned why the Hohokam built such an extensive system on one of the saltiest rivers in North America. Bean and especially corn cultivation is moderately to severely impacted by saline water and salinity. Mesquite is not impacted by levels of salinity found in the Salt River basin. My observation is that the Hohokam’s primary reason was to grow mesquite in the “delta” shaped canal system and mesquite conditioned the soil for corn and beans with nitrogen and shade temperature reduction, and moderated freeze sensitivity in the winter.”
“The Hohokam would have always faced the challenge of soil salinity, yet they farmed the same region for more than a thousand years, indicating that they understood how to deal with soil salinity — through the flushing of soils, leaving certain tracts fallow, alternating crop types planted, and other soil management techniques. Mesquite comprises approximately 50% of the archaeological record as compared to corn and beans.” He also proposes that the so-called “ballcourts” found among Hohokam ruins were in fact fertilizer dehydration basins.