Artifact Gallery - Kiva

Roofless kiva

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.

Throughout the year, kivas are used for the same purposes that they were in the time of the ancestors. Our religious leaders go into the kivas for days and weeks at a time to prepare. Kivas are used for our religious dances, ceremonies, celebrations, and annual gatherings, such as feast days. They are sacred places. I hope that all will be respectful and appreciate the importance kivas have for us.”

-TJ Atsye, Laguna Pueblo

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Last updated: May 1, 2020

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