An Archaeology of the Night

Author(s): April Nowell; Nan Gonlin

Year: 2016


Archaeologists have been in the dark on the topic of the night for far too long. Like any other aspect of human behavior, the nighttime has firmly planted itself in the archaeological record, ready for us to uncover it, if only we seek it out. Relying upon the material trails that humans leave behind, it is not only possible but productive to pursue an archaeology of the night to enlighten and broaden our knowledge of the human past. Artifacts, features, structures, and sites provide clues to dark doings, whether these are oil lamps from the Paleolithic, benches upon which the ancient Maya slept, or ancient observatories that humans built for celestial observations. Sex, sin, sleep, slogging, ceremony, and struggles are only some of the nighttime activities that ensued once the sun went down and the moon rose. This paper will introduce the topic of an archaeology of the night and provide cross-cultural examples. All across the globe, humans simultaneously embraced and feared the night.

Cite this Record

An Archaeology of the Night. April Nowell, Nan Gonlin. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 402932)