A kiva is a room used by Puebloans for religious rituals and political meetings, many of them associated with the kachina belief system. Among the modern Hopi and most other Pueblo people, kivas are square-walled and underground, and are used for spiritual ceremonies.

Similar subterranean rooms are found among ruins in the North-American Southwest, indicating uses by the ancient peoples of the region including the ancestral Puebloans, the Mogollon, and the Hohokam.[1] Those used by the ancient Pueblos of the Pueblo I Period and following, designated by the Pecos Classification system developed by archaeologists, were usually round and evolved from simpler pithouses. For the Ancestral Puebloans, these rooms are believed to have had a variety of functions, including domestic residence along with social and ceremonial purposes.[2]

Bandelier Kiva
Reconstructed kiva at Bandelier National Monument
Interior of a reconstructed kiva at Mesa Verde National Park
Grand kiva at Aztek
The Great Kiva at Aztec Ruins National Monument was excavated by Earl Morris in 1921 and reconstructed by him 13 years later.
Interior Great Kiva Aztec Ruins 1
Interior of Great Kiva at Aztec Ruins National Monument showing the vast size of the structure
Kiva 2
Ruins of the kiva at Puerco Pueblo, Petrified Forest National Park
Chacoan round room features
Chacoan round room features


During the late eighth century, Mesa Verdeans started building square pit structures that archeologists call protokivas. They were typically 3 or 4 feet (0.91 or 1.22 m) deep and 12 to 20 feet (3.7 to 6.1 m) in diameter. By the mid-10th and early 11th centuries, these had evolved into smaller circular structures called kivas, which were usually 12 to 15 feet (3.7 to 4.6 m) across. Mesa Verde-style kivas included a feature from earlier times called a sipapu, which is a hole dug in the north of the chamber that is thought to represent the Ancestral Puebloan's place of emergence from the underworld.[3][4]

When designating an ancient room as a kiva, archaeologists make assumptions about the room's original functions and how those functions may be similar to or differ from kivas used in modern practice. The kachina belief system appears to have emerged in the Southwest around AD 1250, while kiva-like structures occurred much earlier. This suggests that the room's older functions may have been changed or adapted to suit the new religious practice.

As cultural changes occurred, particularly during the Pueblo III period between 1150 and 1300 AD, kivas continued to have a prominent place in the community. However, some kivas were built above ground. Kiva architecture became more elaborate, with tower kivas and great kivas incorporating specialized floor features. For example, kivas found in Mesa Verde were generally keyhole-shaped. In most larger communities, it was normal to find one kiva for each five or six rooms. Kiva destruction, primarily by burning, has been seen as a strong archaeological indicator of conflict and warfare among people of the Southwest during this period.

Fifteen top rooms encircle the central chamber of the vast Great Kiva at Aztec Ruins National Monument. The room's

... purpose is unclear. ... Each had an exterior doorway to the plaza. ... Four massive pillars of alternating masonry and horizontal poles held up the ceiling beams, which in turn supported an estimated 95-ton roof. Each pillar rested on four shaped-stone disks, weighing about 355 pounds [161 kg] apiece. These discs are of limestone, which came from mountains at least 40 miles away.[5]

After 1325 or 1350, except in the Hopi and Pueblo region, the ratio changed from 60 to 90 rooms for each kiva. This may indicate a religious or organizational change within the society, perhaps affecting the status and number of clans among the Pueblo people.

Great kiva

Great kivas differ from regular kivas, which archeologists call Chaco-style kivas, in several ways; first and foremost, great kivas are always much larger and deeper than Chaco-style kivas. Whereas the walls of great kivas always extend above the surrounding landscape, the walls of Chaco-style kivas do not, but are instead flush with the surrounding landscape. Chaco-style kivas are often found incorporated into the central room blocks of great houses, but great kivas are always separate from core structures. Great kivas almost always have a bench that encircles the inner space, but this feature is not found in Chaco-style kivas. Great kivas also tend to include floor vaults, which might have served as foot drums for ceremonial dancers, but Chaco-style kivas do not.[6] Great kivas are believed to be the first public buildings constructed in the Mesa Verde region.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Pecina 2012.
  2. ^ Markovich, Nicholas; Preiser, Wolfgang; Sturm, Fred (2015). Pueblo Style and Regional Architecture. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-39883-7.
  3. ^ Lipe 2006, pp. 30–31.
  4. ^ Lipe 2006, p. 30.
  5. ^ Cajete & Nichols 2004.
  6. ^ Vivian & Reiter 1965, pp. 82–92.
  7. ^ Hurst & Till 2006, p. 78.
  • Cajete, Gregory A. & Nichols, Teresa (2004), A Trail Guide to the Aztec Ruins, Western National Parks Association (WPNA)
  • Hurst, Winston; Till, Jonathan (2006), "Mesa Verdean Sacred Landscapes", in Nobel, David Grant (ed.), The Mesa Verde World: Explorations in Ancestral Puebloan Archaeology, School of American Research Press, pp. 74–83, ISBN 978-1-930618-75-6
  • Lipe, Willian D. (2006), "The Mesa Verde Region during Chaco Times", in Nobel, David Grant (ed.), The Mesa Verde World: Explorations in Ancestral Puebloan Archaeology, School of American Research Press, pp. 28–37, ISBN 978-1-930618-75-6
  • Pecina, Ron (December 2012), "Estufa or Kiva", Indian Trader, Cottonwood Arizona: D. South, 3564 (12): 12–17
  • Vivian, Gordon; Reiter, Paul (1965), The great kivas of Chaco Canyon and their relationships, University of New Mexico Press, ISBN 978-0-8263-0297-7

Further reading

  • Cordell, Linda S. (1994). Ancient Pueblo Peoples. Exploring the Ancient World. Smithsonian Books. ISBN 978-0895990389.
  • LeBlanc, Steven A. (1999). Prehistoric Warfare in the American Southwest. University of Utah Press. ISBN 978-0874805819.
  • Rohn, Arthur H. & Ferguson, William M (2006). Puebloan Ruins of the Southwest. University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 978-0826339706.

External links

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Kamen Rider Kiva

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Kiva (organization)

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Salmon Ruins

Salmon Ruins is an ancient Chacoan and Pueblo site located in the northwest corner of New Mexico, USA. Salmon was constructed by migrants from Chaco Canyon around 1090 CE, with 275 to 300 original rooms spread across three stories, an elevated tower kiva in its central portion, and a great kiva in its plaza. Subsequent use by local Middle San Juan people (beginning in the 1120s) resulted in extensive modifications to the original building, with the reuse of hundreds of rooms, division of many of the original large, Chacoan rooms into smaller rooms, and emplacement of more than 20 small kivas into pueblo rooms and plaza areas. The site was occupied by ancient Ancestral Puebloans until the 1280s, when much of the site was destroyed by fire and abandoned (Reed 2006b). The pueblo is situated on the north bank of the San Juan River, just to the west of the modern town of Bloomfield, New Mexico, and about 45 miles (72 km) north of Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon. The site was built on the first alluvial terrace above the San Juan River floodplain.

The ruins of Salmon Pueblo were excavated between 1970 and 1979, under the direction of Cynthia Irwin-Williams of Eastern New Mexico University in partnership with the San Juan County Museum Association (Irwin-Williams 2006, p. 17-27). The San Juan Valley Archaeological Program resulted in the excavation of slightly more than one-third of Salmon's ground floor rooms. More than 1.5 million artifacts and samples were recovered from Salmon. In 1980, Irwin-Williams and co-principal investigator Phillip Shelley wrote, compiled and edited a multivolume, 1,500-page report. The document fulfilled the reporting requirements for the series of grants under which the project had been completed but it was not intended for publication. Throughout the 1980s, Irwin-Williams and Shelley worked on a modified and greatly reduced manuscript, with the goal of producing a publishable report. This work ended with the untimely death of Cynthia Irwin-Williams in 1990.

In 2000, Archaeology Southwest (formerly the Center for Desert Archaeology) President Bill Doelle and staff met with Salmon Executive Director Larry Baker and forged a multiyear partnership. Archaeology Southwest's work at Salmon began in 2001 as the Salmon Reinvestment and Research Program, with archaeologist Paul Reed leading the effort. The research initiative comprised two primary tasks: first, to condense and edit the original 1980 Salmon report into a new, published technical report, and second, to conduct additional, primary research in several targeted areas, with the goal of producing material for a detailed technical report, as well as a synthetic volume. The three-volume report, entitled Thirty-Five Years of Archaeological Research at Salmon Ruins, New Mexico, was published in 2006 (Reed 2006a), followed by the synthetic-summary volume Chaco’s Northern Prodigies, published in 2008 (Reed 2008a). An additional component of the Archaeology Southwest effort at Salmon focused on the curation needs of the massive collection. These needs were partially addressed through a Save America's Treasures grant for $150,000 awarded in 2002. The curation effort (repackaging and reboxing artifacts) has continued over the last 10 years.


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