The Ant People of the Hopi
The Hopi Indians have lived on the high desert of northern Arizona for thousands of years. This barren but beautiful landscape was the place where Hopi gods directed them to build a number villages made up of pueblos—what we today would call stone apartment complexes. Here the Hopi managed to flourish by simply growing corn, beans, and squash with very little rainfall and almost no irrigation.
One of the most intriguing Hopi legends involves the Ant People, who were crucial to the survival of the Hopi—not just once but twice. The so-called “First World” (or world-age) was apparently destroyed by fire—possibly some sort of volcanism, asteroid strike, or coronal mass ejection from the sun. The Second World was destroyed by ice—Ice Age glaciers or a pole shift. During these two global cataclysms, the virtuous members of the Hopi tribe were guided by an odd-shaped cloud during the day and a moving star at night that led them to the sky god named Sotuknang, who finally took them to the Ant People—in Hopi, Anu Sinom . The Ant People then escorted the Hopi into subterranean caves where they found refuge and sustenance.
In this legend the Ant People are portrayed as generous and industrious, giving the Hopi food when supplies ran short and teaching them the merits of food storage. In fact, another legend says that the reason why the ants have such thin waists today is because they once deprived themselves of provisions in order to feed the Hopi.
Round kiva in New Mexico, built by descendants of the ancient Hopi
The constellation Orion also has a thin waist. When Orion dominates the winter skies, the ants are deep in their small underground hills. These structures are similar in form to the Hopi kivas, which are subterranean communal prayer chambers. Coincidentally the Sanskrit word ki means “ant hill” and va means “dwelling.” Each February inside their kivas the Hopi perform the Bean Sprouting Ceremony, or Bean Dance, called Powamu. During this time the fires are continuously kept ablaze, turning these structures into superb hot houses. The ritual commemorates a time when the Anu Sinom taught the Hopi how to sprout beans inside caverns in order to survive.
It is interesting to note that the Babylonian sky god was named Anu. The Hopi word for “ant” is also anu, and the Hopi root word naki means “friends.” Thus, the Hopi Anu-naki, or “ant friends,” may have been the same as the Sumerian Annunaki—the beings who once came to Earth from the heavens.
Hopi rock carvings of the Ant People, northern Arizona
The Ant People may have also lived in ancient Egypt. Akhenaten, the 18th Dynasty pharaoh who ruled from 1351–1334 BC, is shown in some depictions with an elongated skull like the shape of an ant’s head. His almond-shaped eyes and neck are like the ant’s, and either the serpent or the vulture on his uraeus resembles the ant’s mandibles. He also has spindly arms and legs like those of the ant, and his upper body resembles the ant’s thorax while his lower body mirrors the ant’s abdomen. Akhenaten’s body type can be specifically compared to the Pharaoh Ant ( Momomorium pharaonis ), which originated in West Africa. It also has an elongated head, a yellow to reddish brown body, and a darker abdomen with a stinger.
Perhaps it is more than a coincidence that the Egyptian word sahu means “stars of Orion,” whereas the Hopi word sohu means “star,” the most important of which are those in the constellation Orion. To read more on the Ant People and the Hopi connection to ancient Egypt, see my most recent book Star Shrines and Earthworks of the Desert Southwest .