Ballcourts and ceramics: The case for Hohokam marketplaces in the Arizona desert

David Abbott, Alexa M. Smith, Emiliano Gallaga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


During the middle Sedentary period (ca. A.D. 1000-1070) in the deserts of southern and central Arizona, crowds from near and far regularly gathered at the centers of Hohokam villages to participate in ritual ballcourt festivities. These events were ideal venues for barter and exchange, leading some theorists to hypothesize that periodic marketplaces were associated with the ritual ballgames. Recent ceramic provenance and vessel-form evidence from the Phoenix basin have shown that the production of decorated and utilitarian pots was highly concentrated during this time and large numbers of bowls and jars were evenly distributed to far flung consumers. These findings have supported the marketplace hypothesis, suggesting that an efficient and reliable mechanism was available for moving large numbers of commodities across the region. The high volume of ceramic transactions, however, seems to have placed the Hohokam case beyond the capabilities of nascent marketplaces documented from ethnohistoric and ethnographic evidence. In this paper, we support the idea that marketplace barter was a central component of the Hohokam economy by presenting new ceramic data from the lower Salt River valley, which temporally links the demise of the ballcourt ceremonialism with a transformation in the organization of pottery production and distribution. We then examine some unusual circumstances pertaining to the Hohokam regional system that may help to explain how consumers could have so heavily depended on a network of horizontally organized, periodic marketplaces for basic necessities like earthenware containers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)461-484
Number of pages24
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology
  • Museology


Dive into the research topics of 'Ballcourts and ceramics: The case for Hohokam marketplaces in the Arizona desert'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this