Main Loop Trail Stop 4

Main Loop Trail Stop 4
The Kiva is an important part of the ceremonial cycle and culture

NPS Photo by Stella Carroll

This underground structure, called a kiva (KEE-vah), was an important part of the ceremonial cycle and culture. It was a center of the community, not only for religious activities, but also for education and decision-making. Unlike our secular world, there was no separation of church and state in Ancestral Pueblo culture. Religious belief was a thread woven throughout their daily lives. The essential passing of knowledge and faith from parent to child occurred within the stone walls of a kiva. Today the use of kivas varies from pueblo to pueblo. Size and structural features of modern kivas may vary from those built in the past. Most interpretations about prehistoric uses are based on historic and modern information.

When in use, this kiva would have been covered by a roof made of wood and earth. Six wooden pillars supported the roof. The short upright logs on the kiva floor show the relative positions of these pillars. You would have entered the kiva using a ladder through an opening in the roof. The roof would have been hard plastered with mud to support people walking on it. Imagine climbing down the ladder into a darkened room, flickering torches offering the only light, people sitting on the floor and along the walls. This was a special place where important decisions and knowledge were communicated. This kiva was the community’s heart and center.

Although heady, the air in the kiva might have been surprisingly clear. Smoke from the fire exited the structure through the main entrance. The resulting air circulation pulled fresh air into the structure through a ventilation shaft (the opening just to the left of the main structure).

There is no evidence revealing the purpose of the rectangular holes in the floor Thin pieces of wood covered similar features excavated in other kivas suggesting possible use as foot drums. Other possible uses include storage or for the sprouting of seedlings in the early spring.

Notice the two different layers in the stone wall. The inner layer may have been a complete wall. It exhibits much finer stonework than the coarse outer wall. This suggests the kiva may have been rebuilt after its initial construction.

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Last updated: February 24, 2015

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