Night and Darkness in Precolulmbian Mexico and Central America

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

As night rose in Mexico and Central America, another realm emerged to replace the world of daylight and warmth. Temperatures dropped as the sun set, crepuscular animals appeared, selenotropic plants delighted in the moonlight, and humans engaged in a variety of nocturnal activities that differed significantly from those conducted during daylight hours. Darkness is one aspect of the night that is not exclusive to it and lends itself to analysis as well. Using similar theories for studying the day, practice theory, nighttime household archaeology, phenomenology, and adaptationist approaches all set the stage for enlivening the nightscape and darkness. Variables such as age, gender, class, ethnicity, and occupation, among others, are interwoven and constitute integral aspects of reconstructing the night and illuminating darkness since individuals within society experience culture from their own unique viewpoints. The four-field approach presents an advantage for exploring the depths of darkness, whether at night or otherwise, as ethnography, linguistics, and biological anthropology contribute to a well-rounded archaeology of the night. By approaching the study of ancient cultures from a dark perspective, we can learn a great deal more about how ancient humans flourished and coped, for they lived in light as well as darkness.