Archaeologists and Anthropologists previously thought that these chambers were used solely for ceremonial purposes, as the Anasazi Kivas at Mesa Verde. Recently however, they have come to realize that Indians pre-existing Mesa Verde lived in and made homes of these underground structures. Few people are aware of the new findings so we at White Mountain have tried to present some of these little known historical facts. Throughout Southern Colorado, Northern New Mexico, North-eastern Arizona and South-eastern Utah ruins of underground Indian dwellings have been found. These dwellings have been located in many different types of terrain including; mesa tops, foothills and rolling prairie. Due to erosion many more must have existed than have been found. The way a Kiva is constructed, heavy rain and snow will, over time, cave in the dome roof. When this happens only a slight depression is left. As foliage reclaims the area it is practically impossible without excavation to discern the ruins from the natural landscape.
Little is known about the lifestyle of these primitive Indians.We know that most of their time was spent above ground. The Kiva was only used for sleeping and during bad weather. Activities, such as basket weaving, flint knapping, grain-grinding and cooking took place above ground. It is believed that an arbor was constructed over the dome of the dwelling, providing shade and work space. This was probably used for hanging herbs and vegetables as well.
Using primitive tools such as thigh bone picks, shoulder bone shovels, stone axes and yucca baskets an average family of 8 to 10 could easily build this structure in a summer. A hole was dug 6 to 8 feet deep and 12 to 18 feet wide. The harsher the winter, the deeper the hole. After the hole is finished, flat rocks are “dry stacked” long ways overlapping, like brick work. An occasional “dead-man rock” was then placed so that the length of it stuck out the back into the dirt wall, away from the room. This was done to add stability and prevent cave ins. A pole frame work was then built in the center of the hole to support the ceiling this is also the ladder for descending. Supporting beams were then laid tepee fashion on the frame and rock wall. Next, branches or willows were piled on the beams, grass or straw was then packed thick enough on top to keep the dirt from falling through. Lastly, the dirt from the hole was piled on top. An animal skin covered the opening during bad weather.