Kiva is a Hopi word. At Mesa Verde, they were often round, underground rooms and tended to be small household kivas that were used for a mix of routine and special purposes such as a place to hold ceremonies.
Notice the small hole near the firepit? This is the Sipapu, a Hopi word for “place of emergence.” According to Hopi oral tradition, this hole represents the place where Ancestral Pueblo people emerged from the previous world to this one. Much like the biblical story of Noah’s Ark, Hopis believe that the world before this one was destroyed, but a few chosen people were saved. Climbing a ladder up out of the smoky kiva and through the roof into the courtyard after ceremonies may have served as a powerful reminder of their movement from the world before.
In pueblo villages today, kivas have special uses and meanings. It appears that every clan (made up of the extended family) had its own kiva for use during ceremonies and other social events.
Last updated: May 1, 2020