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Ancient Hohokam canal unearthed at ASU

Archaeologists have uncovered canals dating back more than 1,000 years on an Arizona State University construction site in Tempe.

Samples were taken from the canals, which have three soil marks indicating different time periods, will be sent to local laboratories for analysis.

Pottery found at the site will be given to ASU’s Archaeological Research Institute.

“What we’re after is data,” said Glen Rice of Rio Salado Archaeology and an ASU emeritus faculty member in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. “We’re not after the objects per se.”

The two canals from the Hohokam time period were unearthed last month at the site of the former Valley National Bank building, which was torn down in February to make way for a new residence hall and $100 million Barrett Honors College.

Mark Jacobs, dean of the Barrett Honors College, said he had not been aware of the excavation but thinks the canals could be used as a teaching tool.

“To me, having students know the Hohokam canals went right under their school is amazing,” Jacobs said. “It’s great teaching opportunity for any student coming to ASU.”

The canals show that the land was most likely used for agriculture fields and wasn’t home to an entire village.

The canals were constructed to carry large amounts of water from the Salt and Gila rivers. The inhabitants used the water to grow food such as corn, beans and squash but they may have also grown cotton or tobacco, according to Rice.

ASU and archaeologists from Rio Salado Archaeology expected to find the canals because of maps made in the 1920s that pinpointed their locations, Rice said.

Because the land is owned by the state, ASU was required to test the land to see if there was any historic significance to it. Once it was determined there was, archaeologists worked for about a month excavating the canals and pottery, Rice said.

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