Kiva is a Hopi word meaning “ceremonial room.” Kivas were important ceremonial gathering places in the life of Ancestral Puebloans – comparable to the churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques of today. It appears that every clan (made up of the extended family) had its own kiva for use during ceremonies and other social events. Kivas were also used as sleeping areas, so served a multi-use concept.
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 Puebloan 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 salvation from the world before.
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