Archaeology of the Night

Life After Dark in the Ancient World

edited by Nancy Gonlin and April Nowell

“Intellectually stimulating and enlightening. Without doubt it will inspire further discussion, debate, and research. . . . An important contribution to a variety of fields.”

—Marion Dowd, Institute of Technology, Sligo, Ireland, and author of The Archaeology of Darkness

“This book presents a new interpretive viewpoint whose scale is on the order of household archaeology, commoner archaeology, landscape archaeology, and others. . . . The result is a richer interpretation of ancient humans in their lived landscape.”

—Mark Mehrer, Northern Illinois University

“This is a deliciously rare book. It opens new paths of thought in a way that is both down-to-earth and fun. . . . A book like this makes archaeology exciting again.”
American Antiquity

" Archaeology of the Night is designed to question our preconceptions. The editors and contributors challenge us to think outside the realm of daylight and vision—to explore the darkness and expand our sensory encounter with the past."
American Journal of Archaeology

How did ancient peoples experience, view, and portray the night? What was it like to live in the past when total nocturnal darkness was the norm? Archaeology of the Night explores the archaeology, anthropology, mythology, iconography, and epigraphy of nocturnal practices and questions the dominant models of daily ancient life. A diverse team of experienced scholars uses a variety of methods and resources to reconstruct how ancient peoples navigated the night and what their associated daily—and nightly—practices were.

This collection challenges modern ideas and misconceptions regarding the night and what darkness and night symbolized in the ancient world, and it highlights the inherent research bias in favor of “daytime” archaeology. Numerous case studies from around the world (including Oman, Mesoamerica, Scandinavia, Rome, Great Zimbabwe, Indus Valley, Peru, and Cahokia) illuminate subversive, social, ritual, domestic, and work activities, such as witchcraft, ceremonies, feasting, sleeping, nocturnal agriculture, and much more. Were there artifacts particularly associated with the night? Authors investigate individuals and groups (both real and mythological) who share a special connection to nighttime life.

Reconsidering the archaeological record, Archaeology of the Night views sites, artifacts, features, and cultures from a unique perspective. This book is relevant to anthropologists and archaeologists and also to scholars of human geography, history, astronomy, sensory studies, human biology, folklore, and mythology.

Contributors: Susan Alt, Anthony F. Aveni, Jane Eva Baxter, Shadreck Chirikure, Minette Church, Jeremy D. Coltman, Margaret Conkey, Tom Dillehay, Christine C. Dixon, Zenobie Garrett, Nancy Gonlin, Kathryn Kamp, Erin Halstad McGuire, Abigail Joy Moffett, Jerry D. Moore, Smiti Nathan, April Nowell, Scott C. Smith, Glenn R. Storey, Meghan Strong, Cynthia Van Gilder, Alexei Vranich, John C. Whittaker, Rita Wright


Check out Nancy Gonlin's TEDx talk on the archaeology of the night: 



Nancy Gonlin is a Mesoamerican archaeologist who specializes in daily and nightly practices, household studies, and inequality. She serves as co-editor of the Cambridge journal Ancient Mesoamerica. Her publications include the co-edited volumes Commoner Ritual and Ideology in Ancient MesoamericaAncient Households of the Americas, Human Adaptation in Ancient Mesoamerica, and Archaeology of the Night. She is co-author of Copán: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Maya Kingdom. Watch her TEDx talk "Life After Dark in the Ancient World" here.

April Nowell is a Paleolithic archaeologist and professor of anthropology at the University of Victoria. She directs an international team of researchers in the study of Lower and Middle Paleolithic sites in Jordan and is known for her publications on cognitive archaeology, the archaeology of children, Paleolithic art, and the relationship between science, pop culture, and the media. She is the author of Growing Up in the Ice Age: Fossil and Archaeological Evidence of the Lived Lives of Plio-Pleistocene Children and coeditor of Stone Tools and the Evolution of Human Cognition. Watch her TEDx talk “Paleo Porn” here.

Imprint: University Press of Colorado

Book Details

  • Hardcover Price: $75.00
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-60732-677-9
  • Paperback Price: $34.95, available January 2021
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-64642-124-4
  • Ebook Price: $60.00
  • 30-day ebook rental price: $30.00
  • EISBN: 978-1-60732-678-6
  • Publication Month: January
  • Publication Year: 2018
  • Pages: 442
  • Illustrations: 111 b&w illustrations
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: edited by Nancy Gonlin and April Nowell
  • ECommerce Code: 978-1-60732-677-9