Ancient holes contain the secret to early civilization in Marana

Tourists study ancient mortar holes used by the Hohokam civilization to grind mesquite beans during 500-1450 A.D.

Tourists study ancient mortar holes used by the Hohokam civilization to grind mesquite beans during 500-1450 A.D.

Intrepid adventurers needn't travel far to take a peek at the remains of an ancient kitchen. They only need to travel a few miles from Interstate 10 as part of a new attraction created by the Town of Marana’s tourism program, Discover Marana, that will be offered by Gray Line Tours Tucson.

Ancient foodways, artisanal flavors, and Sonoran haute cuisine set the stage for the Marana Gastronomy Tour set to debut this fall. Tourists can expect to travel back thousands of years with University of Arizona professor emerita and Arizona State Museum Curator Dr. Suzanne Fish as they explore ancient archaeological sites of the Hohokam civilization, before returning to the present for a modern cuisine tasting infused with with ancient wild foods, ancient domesticated native foods, and post-1687 European foods. BKW Farm, Bean Tree Farm, Catalina Brewing Company, and Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain all take center stage during the epicurean showcase.

Left to right: Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain; Barrio Bread; Catalina Brewing Company

“Marana is situated on one of three places along the Santa Cruz River watershed that has supported the oldest agriculture systems in North America for more than four thousand years,” said Town of Marana Tourism Manager Laura Cortelyou. The gastronomy tour was designed to explore that rich history in the context of contemporary foods that use ancient flavors. 

Marana’s rich concentration of archaeological sites are relatively undisturbed, and are still yielding surprising discoveries such as the oldest agricultural irrigation canal system in North America found in 2009. Marana plays a significant role in the southern Arizona culinary networks through its own noteworthy restaurants and as a supplier to regional restaurants, farmer’s markets, and dining room tables.

The Marana Gastronomy Tour is the first tour approved by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Creative Cities Network member, Tucson City of Gastronomy, the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the U.S. The designation recognizes 13,000 years of habitation, 4,000 years of formal agriculture, the longest agricultural history of any city in North America, and 300 years of orchards and livestock ranching – a history shared by Marana and Tucson. More information can be found at .

Oh, and those ancient holes that contain a Hohokom secret? Consider them the Sonoran great-grandmother of the portable mortar and pestles (also known as mano y metate). The people of Marana more than one thousand years ago created these smooth bowls in the rock to grind their mesquite beans into fine powder for delicious patties. 

Click here for more information on Marana: Town of Gastronomy and the Marana Gastronomy Tours.

Left to right: Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain; Catalina Brewing Company