Kiva’s Ladder

Kivas, of course, were present in almost every Pueblo, and central to so many different aspects of life. They came in all sizes, but they all shared some basic features; they had reasonably tall walls, they were often built into the ground, and, most importantly, they were covered.

Which raises the problem of how to get into them. The larger kiva’s had dedicated entrances. But the smaller ones? Those had a ladder descending from the roof.

Imagine the anticipation that one must have felt waiting for an elder to come down the ladder. The ladder would stand empty, patiently waiting. At first, the slightest tremble might be seen, and then a foot, and then two, and then the elder himself. And when he departed, the kiva, and ladder, would stand empty in anticipation once again.

This particular ladder is in a reconstructed kiva at Pecos National Historic Park in New Mexico. Since kivas are dark, a very long exposure was used late in the afternoon; this brought out the deep, rich tones, and provides just that sense of waiting for the elder to come.

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