The scientific tourist #296 — Bandelier’s Big Kiva

For your edification, the Big Kiva at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico:

Bandelier kiva

Large enough that it took 3 wide-angle photos stitched together to cover, this kiva is right along the main trail at Bandelier.  Kivas, used for religious and other civic purposes, are thought to have evolved from ancestral puebloan pit-houses.  So a basic shape that could once supply a family a home was enlarged and formalized over hundreds of generations to become a community center like this.

If you look carefully, you’ll notice two layers of masonry, a finer one inside a rougher one.  Perhaps the kiva was rebuilt at some point, or maybe the coarse outer wall provided the structural base while the finer inner construction gave the kiva a nicer interior finish.  You can also see six upright logs on the kiva floor — these show where massive wooden pillars once stood, supporting a timber and earth roof.  The rectangular holes in the floor are, as of yet, still not understood.

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