These ladders are a common architectural reference and decorating item throughout the Southwest. Nearly everybody uses them here in the Southwest. If you don't have one, you probably wished you did (I don't have one and I wish I did!).
What perplexes me is, what does this ladder really mean? I mean, they are everywhere here! But, I do wonder how many people really stop and think about the significance of the ladder.
I'm not entirely sure and I've been researching it and haven't really found anything conclusive. Just vague references. I do know that it is connected to the use of ladders in ceremonial kivas. Obviously, there is the function of the ladder in the kiva as a way to get in and out. But, why bother with digging a large hole in the ground for the kiva so that you have to climb in and out of it?
Based on what I could figure out from researching, it seems to be connected with the Native American Myth of Emergence (how the earth was created and how they got there). Every Native American group has their rendition of how the world was created and how man came to be. The kiva and it's structural arrangement represents this myth; a small hole or indentation in the center of the floor symbolizes the portal in which their ancestors emerged. There is a common theme of a three part arrangement: the underworld, the Earth and the sky.
Hence, the significance of the ladder; transitioning back and forth between these three domains.
If anyone has more to add to this, please do so! I think it odd that something often used as a design element and has become an icon in Southwestern architecture is not so readily understood!
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