New Mexico Art Tells its History

History: Ceremonies and Celebrations

In the heart of their hamlets, the Mogollon built larger semisubterranean structures which probably served as community ceremonial structures, or kivas. With roughly circular or D-shaped floor plans, the kivas, contained articles of ritual, for instance, clay effigies of humans or animals, prayer sticks of shamans, the claws of powerful animals, stone pipes for wild tobacco, colored mineral ingredients for body paints, crystals of quartz, and stones with exotic shapes. Most had central fire hearths.

When their Creator, sometimes called “The Grandmother,” summoned the Ancestral Pueblo peoples from the underworld through a portal, or sipapu, onto earth’s surface, she directed them to find the “Center, or Middle, Place” to build their pueblos. She spoke of both a geographical and a spiritual core, a location which promised harmony and balance. She imbued them with a high regard for the resources of the earth, recognition of the importance of direction and village orientation, a deep awareness of the march of the seasons, veneration for spirituality and sacred places, and a reverence for their origins.

Probably all Ancestral Pueblo people anticipated and marked the summer and winter solstices. The importance of astronomy to all ancient cultures stemmed from a practical need to establish a precise method for telling time, monitoring agricultural events, performing religious ceremonies, and regulating governmental activities. Early people discovered that the progression of the seasons was matched to the rhythmic motions of the heavens, and that the sky was a far more accurate indicator of these cycles than making systematic observation of the weather. As in many other agricultural societies, important rituals were keyed to annual celestial events like the solstices and equinoxes. Among the most famous solstice markers is the so-called "Sun Dagger" at Chaco Canyon.

Desert USA


Acknowledgements | About the Museum of Art | Privacy Policy | ©2010 New Mexico Museum of Art