Suzanne K. Fish, PhD

Curator Emerita, Arizona State Museum and Professor Emerita, School of Anthropology
(520) 621-6945

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With UA degrees in Anthropology (MA) and an interdisciplinary PhD in Arid Lands Resource Sciences, I have combined these disciplinary backgrounds in research, teaching, and outreach. My primary focus is Hohokam archaeology of southern Arizona and the ethnobotany and agricultural traditions of the Sonoran Desert before and after Spanish contact. Special interests are regional settlement patterns, the organization of non-state archaeological societies, archaeological palynology, the structure of prehispanic productive landscapes, and Hohokam cultivation of agave. Publications reflect investigations in the U.S. Southwest and Southeast, central and northwest Mexico, coastal Brazil, and Jordan. Courses taught include ethnobotany, archaeology of the southern Southwest, traditional agriculture of the Southwest, and archaeological field schools. Disciplinary service has been on Boards of the Society for American Archaeology and Society of Ethnobiology, as Editor of Latin American Antiquity, and on the Executive Committee of the Arid Lands Resource Sciences Interdisciplinary PhD Program.

Paul Fish and I have studied Hohokam agricultural remains on Tumamoc’s western bajada since 1984. Fields there consist of “rockpiles,” along with low terrace alignments that captured runoff and acted as mulches for cultivated agave plants. Harvested agave hearts were roasted in interspersed pits in the ground. Our experimental plantings in the rockpile field features revealed successful species, length of time to harvests, and the need for culling of clonal offsets that shared agave root systems. A wide variety of audiences have visited the fields on guided tours. A demonstration garden of agaves in reconstructed rockpiles is located near Tumamoc’s historic buildings. Tumamoc participants are now planning for a new round of planting experiments that further replicate, demonstrate, and refine understanding of ingenious Hohokam agricultural practices on the driest of basin slopes.



Selected readings on Hohokam agave cultivation and related topics. See Paul Fish’s entry for readings on the archaeology of Tumamoc Hill villages:

P. Fish. 2010. Anthropogenic environments: An Americanist perspective. The Archaeology of Anthropogenic Environments, edited by Rebecca Dean, pp. 380–392. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale.

S. Fish. 2000.  Hohokam impacts on Sonoran Desert environment. In Imperfect Balance: Precolumbian Landscape Transformation in the New World, edited by David Lentz, pp. 251–280. Columbia University Press, New York.

S. Fish. 2011.  Environment, farming, and plant resources. In Excavations at Cerro de Trincheras, Sonora, Mexico, edited by Randall McGuire and Elisa Villalpando, pp. 280–322. Arizona State Museum Archaeological Series 204. University of Arizona, Tucson.

S. Fish and G. Nabhan. 1991. Desert as context: the Hohokam environment. In Exploring the Hohokam: Desert Peoples of the American Southwest, edited by G. Gumerman, pp. 29–60. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

S. Fish and P. Fish. 1990. Analyzing regional agriculture: a Hohokam example. In The Archaeology of Regions: The Case for Full-Coverage Survey, edited by S. Fish and S. Kowalewski, pp. 189–218. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

S. Fish and P. Fish. 1990. An archaeological assessment of ecosystem in the Tucson Basin. In The Ecosystem Concept in Anthropology, edited by E. Moran, pp. 159–190. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.

S. Fish and P. Fish. 1992. Prehistoric landscapes of the Sonoran Desert Hohokam. Population and Environment: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies 13:269–283.

S. Fish and P. Fish. 1994. Prehistoric desert farmers of the Southwest. Annual Review of Anthropology 23:83–108.

S. Fish and P. Fish. 2004. Unsuspected magnitudes: Non-irrigation Hohokam agriculture. In The Archaeology of Global Change, edited by C. Redman, P. Fish, and D. Rogers, pp. 284–296. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

S. Fish and P. Fish. 2006. Cross-cultural perspectives on prehispanic Hohokam agriculture. In Environmental Change and Human Adaptation in the Ancient American Southwest, edited by David Doyel and Jeffrey Dean, pp. 46–68. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

S. Fish and P. Fish. 2014. Agave: a crop lost and found in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. In The Future of Ancient and Extinct Crops, edited by Paul Minnis, pp. 102–138. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

S. Fish and P. Fish. 2019. Stone grids and the archaeology of Agave cultivation in the Safford Valley, Arizona. The Plant Press 42:16–19.

S. Fish, P. Fish, A. MacWilliams, and G. Sanchez de Carpenter. 2004. Growing conditions and crops: the field evidence. In A Major Rock-bordered Grid Site in the Middle Gila Valley of Southeastern Arizona, edited by W. Doolittle and J. Neely, pp. 79–94. University of Arizona Anthropological Research Paper. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

S. Fish, P. Fish, C. Miksicek, and J. Madsen. 1985. Prehistoric agave cultivation in southern Arizona. Desert Plants 7:107–112.

S. Fish, P. Fish, and J. Madsen. 1992. Evidence for large-scale agave cultivation in the Marana Community. In The Marana Community in the Hohokam World, edited by S. Fish, P. Fish, and J. Madsen. Anthropological Papers 56. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.