Loma del Rio, now a part of Papago Park, is a 650 year old archaeological site that was once home to a small community of Hohokams.
Sometime between 1200 and 1450 AD, Loma del Rio was the site of a small Hohokam community. Located on a hill in Papago Park, overlooking Tempe Town Lake, this site was home to approximately fifteen to twenty people, probably several generations of an extended family.
A block of six rooms remains, as well as an isolated room and several agricultural terraces. Archaeologists believe that the isolated room on the east side of the site may have been used for cooking, while the other rooms would have been residences. The walls were constructed of adobe, which was formed around stones taken from local bedrock. The agricultural terraces are particularly unique, as this terraced gardening was ideal for growing agave. The Hohokam utilized all parts of this plant, using the leaf fibers to make rope and eating the nutritious heart. Agave probably played an important part in trade with other villages as well. Evidence of trade with people as far as three hundred miles away has been found at the site, including distinctive pottery and stone tool fragments.
The site was first rediscovered in 1887 by Frank Hamilton Cushing, who led the first archeological expedition to the Salt River Valley. He initially identified the site as “Los Pueblos Arriba.” In 1928, Gila Pueblo archeological staff surveyed the site and identified it as Mesa 1-6 (GP). Then, in 1939, archaeologists Odd S. Halseth, Albert H. Schroeder, and Julian T. Hayden recorded the site as part of the large-scale archaeological projects funded by the Works Progress Administration under the New Deal.
Unfortunately, the site fell to neglect and vandalism until the 1960s, when it once again became a source of interest. In 1961, the site was officially identified as Loma del Rio.
In the 1970s, the site came to the attention of Arizona State University. From 1984 to 196 archaeology students carried out excavations of the site under the supervision of Dr. Alfred E. Dittert, Jr. In 1991, the Arizona Parks Board awarded a Heritage Fund historic preservation grant to the City of Tempe, in partnership with Arizona State Parks, to stabilize the site. Finally, in 1995, the Loma del Ri Archaeological Site was dedicated by the City of Tempe and is part of Papago Park.
This 650 year old archaeological site can now be enjoyed by visitors along an interpretive trail, forever memorializing this piece of Hohokam history.