Archaeology of the Night

Ancient people busied themselves at night with numerous activities, contrary to what one might suppose without abundant electricity to light up the darkness. Archaeological signatures of nighttime behaviors range from entire buildings, such as observatories for viewing the stars, to small hand-held oil lamps that date as far back as the Paleolithic era. Some activities were favored at night and enhanced by the darkness night provided. The night has left its mark on the archaeological record just as assuredly as the day has, and has greatly enhanced our understanding of humanity. Archaeology offers deep chronological depth to night studies and offers a wealth of information about societies from around the globe, from the earliest foragers to historical times, transcending the written word. Material aspects of the night are integral to comprehending how people lived throughout history, including different apparatuses for illuminating darkness and providing warmth, structures that provided nighttime shelter, sacred objects critical for nocturnal rituals, ancient texts and iconography that symbolize the night, among others. These physical manifestations relate to social, economic, political, and ideological aspects of culture in the past and present.

Leader: Nancy Gonlin



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