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Underground chamber of the Pueblo Indian villages of the southwestern U.S., notable for the murals that decorate its walls. A small hole in its floor, the sípapu, serves as the symbolic place of origin of the tribe. Though the kiva's primary purpose is for men's rituals and ceremonies, it is also used for political meetings or casual gatherings. Women perform their rituals and ceremonies in other parts of the pueblo and generally avoid entering the kiva. The traditional round form of the kiva, in contrast to the otherwise square or rectangular Pueblo architecture, recalls the circular pit houses of the prehistoric basket-weaving culture from which these tribes descend.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on kiva, visit Britannica.com.