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Contents: NWS
Layout: F. Geller-Grimm


Not only is the Sonoran Desert the home of many species of plants and animals, it also has a rich history of human settlement dating back for thousands of years. The first humans to live in the area were stone age bands of so-called "Paleo-Indians" who roamed the region during the last ice-age in search for mastodon, mammoth and other pleistocene game.
After the end of the last ice-age 8-10,000 years ago there were some fundamental climatic changes in the Southwest of North America. Lakes dried out, forests perished and the Sonora reached an extent similar to today. These changes resulted in changing life patterns of the human population and led to a greater diversification of resources used for food and materials. About 4.000 years ago cultivation of maize and squash was introduced, but for a long time it played no major role in the diet of the hunting and gathering societies of the region
This changed fundamentally with the rise of the Hohokam, who first appeared in the area around 300 B.C. In the following centuries the Hohokam reached a cultural peak. Numerous artefacts and ruins in the South-Western US and Northern Mexico remind us of that period. Elaborate irrigation systems allowed an increase in agricultural production and villages with up to 1,000 inhabitants were founded. Around 1400 A.D., about 100 years before Christopher Columbus discovery, the Hohokam culture suddenly vanished and there is an ongoing debate on the causes of their disappearance.
At the time of first European contact many different peoples inhabited the Sonoran region. Among them are the Tohono O'Odham (Papago), Akinel O'Odham (Pima), Seri, Yaqui and Mayo. In particular the Tohono O'Odham ("Desert people") and the Akinel O'Odham ("River people"), who live in reservations in southern Arizona and northern Mexico are focussed on in the exhibition. Both are famous for their skilful basketry, which is highly valued among collectors. Examples of this craft from the Linden-Museum in Stuttgart and the Arizona State Museum in Tucson along with contemporary objects purchased in Arizona will be on display.
Furthermore, the economic and social situation as well as changes in lifestyle and diet will be discussed, including such aspects as the growing diabetes problem and gambling as a new economic factor for the American Indian communities