STREET SMARTS

Street Smarts: Tucson road named for ancient people shrouded in mystery

2013-04-02T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T15:35:10Z Street Smarts: Tucson road named for ancient people shrouded in mysteryDavid Leighton For The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Makohoh Trail, south of East Snyder Road and east of North Soldier Trail, is named for the Makohoh Indians.

Makohoh (pronounced May-kooh-ooh) is a Pima word meaning "those who have vanished." The origins of the Makohoh Indians are unknown but they may have come from Mexico. Their known existence begins in 300 B.C. and they are believed to have been the first to settle in the Gila Valley, near present-day Phoenix.

In the beginning, at places like Snaketown, south of present-day Chandler, the people lived in pit houses a foot below ground. The walls most likely were made of wooden poles with mud used to fill in the spaces. The roofs, held up by vertical posts, consisted of mud and sticks stacked on top of mesquite or cottonwood rafters.

They built ball courts approximately 5 feet below ground. The goal of their game was to put a rubber ball through rings made of twisted grass on the sides of the wall.

The Makohoh are well-known for their hand-dug canal system, which they used for irrigation.

They also created thriving trade routes in central Mexico, where they bartered for parrots, shells and copper bells. They did beautiful etchings and often etched toads and snakes into shells using a weak acid solution.

Between 1200 to 1400 A.D., the Sinaguans and Salado people joined the Makohoh, probably due to the great drought that started in 1276. They brought with them a new architectural style, the multi-storied house with many rooms. The Big House near Coolidge is a good example of this architecture. This site was abandoned about 1450 A.D. and is now a national monument.

What happened to the Makohoh people remains a mystery. Some believe their farmland was exhausted by centuries of cultivation; others suspect devastating floods caused their disappearance. The most likely answer is that this group stopped living in large villages, scattered and reverted to the old-style pit house and the simple life of their ancestors.

The Akimel O'odham and Tohono O'odham may be their ancestors.

Feeling confused? Then the folks who named Makohoh Trail achieved their goal.

Makohoh is Hohokam spelled backward. (But all information about the Hohokam in this article is true.) Happy belated April Fools' Day!

Editor's note

Each week the Star tells the stories behind Tucson street names. If you have streets to suggest or stories to share, contact writer David Leighton at streetsmarts@azstarnet.com

Sources: Special thanks to reader Joann Ollar for suggesting this street. Jay J. Wagoner, "Early Arizona: Prehistory to Civil War," University of Arizona Press, 1975 Jim Turner, "Arizona: A Celebration of the Grand Canyon State," Gibbs Smith Publishing, 2011.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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