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HANDBOOKS OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL HISTORY: The Tewa

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On pages 23-24, we find the following interesting story from Edgar L. Hewett‘s book “HANDBOOKS OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL HISTORY”:

   “Tewa legendary tells us that the human race and the animals were born in the underworld. They climbed up a great Douglas “fir” tree, and entered this world THROUGH a lake called Sip’ophe. When people die, their spirits go to Sip’ophe, “lake of the dead”, through which they pass into the underworld. There are many spirits in the waters of Sip’ophe. Sip’ophe is a brackish lake in the sand dunes northeast of Alamosa, Colorado (now within the Great Sand Dunes National Monument). The senior writer of this volume visited the site in 1892. He found among the dunes a small lake of very black, forbidding-looking water. It was approximately one hundred yards in diameter. Around the shore was a continuous line of dead cattle. An old man who had long lived on the slope of Sierra Blanca gave the information that the lake never dried up, and that many cattle died every season from drinking its water. The location of Sip’ophe is generally and definitely known by the Tewa. Here their ancestors came out upon the surface of the earth.

…In varying forms, the name of the place of emergence appears in other Pueblo languages. The Tewa say that the Keres did not enter this world from the dune lake, but from two caves, “Keres holes,” near La Cueva, in Taos County, New Mexico. The cliff in which these caves are situated is about twenty-five feet high. They (the caves) are tunnel-shaped, have a level floor, and are high enough for a man to stand erect in them; the openings are a few feet above the bottom of Oja Caliente creek. The northern cave extends “into the cliff some seventy-five to one hundred feet; its innermost recesses are dark owing to the curvature which the cave makes. Interior surfaces of the chambers are smooth and flesh-colored. From these two caves, the Keres people are said to have come forth when they first emerged into this world.”

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