We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Kiva?

Diane Goettel
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
America Explained is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At America Explained, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A kiva is a room used for religious purposes by Pueblo and Hopi peoples. Although most modern kivas are built above ground, ancient tribes of today’s American Southwest kept some subterranean kivas. Most of these underground rooms were round, instead of square like their aboveground counterparts. It is believed that some of these spaces were used for communal purposes as well as sacred rites.

Many of the peoples who are known to have used kivas participated in the katchina belief system. Historians have found that this belief system emerged in the American Southwest sometime between 1300 AD and 1200 AD. However, archaeologists have found kivas that were built before that time period. Therefore, kivas may have been designed for reasons other than spiritual practice, but were later employed for these purposes.

A kiva is entered through a hole in the roof of the structure. Within the structure, there are benches built in along the inside wall. Depending on the placement and design of a kiva, it may also include interior supports and beams. One very characteristic element of kivas is a hole, or depression in the floor. This hole is called a sipapu, and is meant to symbolize an important event within the katchina creation story. Followers of this spiritual path believe that the very first inhabitants of the world came out of hole in the earth, from a lower world. A kiva is also likely to include a fire pit and a ventilation shaft.

As time progressed and kivas were used by the peoples of the American Southwest for dozens of generations, the design of the structure became more elaborate. Furthermore, while many early kivas were built to accommodate rather small groups of people, later kivas were much larger. It is clear that kivas became important for large groups, hence the change in their design and capacity. This change in the kivas may also mark a change in the way the peoples worshiped.

Struggle in the American Southwest and conflict between the peoples is evident by the ruins of many kivas. Based on archaeological study, it is known that many kivas were burned. The ruins of kivas can still be seen today in many national parks. Reconstructed kivas can be visited at the Mesa Verde National Park and the Bandelier National Monument. There are also ruins of a very large kiva at Chaco Culture National Historic Park.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"
Discussion Comments
By anon134365 — On Dec 14, 2010

Since they changed their capacity and design what exactly are the height variations of kivas?

By anon46076 — On Sep 22, 2009

hello! im 10 and im looking up the meaning of a kiva and this was a very good website for me! so use it if you need to know about a kiva! p.s. by the time anyone reads this, i will probably be dead! that is how no famous i am! Elizabeth

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
Learn more
America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.