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“Awat’ovi Kiva Murals”

Southwest Crossroads Spotlight

Kiva in Escalante Great House, Colorado“Kiva in Escalante Great House, Colorado,” David Grant Noble (Photographer)

The Hopis lived in the village of Awat’ovi on Antelope Mesa from about 1200 AD until its destruction in 1700. Between 1300 and 1600 AD Hopi artisans painted dozens of large murals in the village kiva, one on top of another.

Between 1935 and 1939 archaeologists uncovered the kiva murals in the ruins of Awat’ovi. Large slabs of sandstone covered the inner stone walls of the kivas. On top of these slabs, the Hopis had applied a fine sand and clay mortar to make a smooth painting surface.

The kiva murals seem to represent clan or sacred society ceremonies. Sometimes they recount epic events involving a feathered deity. The makers used abstract geometric designs of figures and animals.

The kiva mural designs are somewhat similar to the pottery designs from a Hopi village called Sikyatki. Certain designs on pottery from Keresan pueblos along the Rio Grande are also similar. These similarities may provide a clue about interaction between the Hopis and other Pueblo people.

The murals with their beautiful colors and designs represent a time of great achievement in Hopi culture. The kiva murals of their ancestors inspire many Hopi artists today.