roof hole

Encyclopedia Article


A roof hole is a hole in the roof of traditional pueblo structures. These holes allowed air and light to come into the dwelling and smoke to exit the dwelling, but primarily they were used to gain access to interior spaces. Until the Pueblo were influenced by European building styles, their structures did not have ground floor doors. Instead, access to interior spaces was through roof holes, using light-weight ladders that were raised and lowered as needed.

In many ways, this design echoes the way that sacred kivas are entered, through the roof, whether the kiva is erected above ground or built underground. This descent into an interior space is evocative of the Pueblo emergence from the center place of the world, through the narrow passage called the sipapu through which the people climbed at the end of their many-staged journey to the present world.

Photo Credit: 

"Rooftops of Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico, circa 1880," photograph by John K. Hillers. (005030). Palace of the Governors Archive, New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe. All Rights Reserved. Use with permission only.