Night and Darkness in Ancient Mesoamerica

edited by Nancy Gonlin & David M. Reed

Hardcover Price $88.00
Ebook Price $70.00
30-day ebook rental price $35.00

Buy Now

Night and Darkness in Ancient Mesoamerica is an exciting volume that convinces the reader archaeology is fully capable of answering deep inquiries into the emotions, sensations, and mysteries of the night. The volume inspires fresh questions about ancient sensation while simultaneously providing rich new data on the potency of darkness to the people of ancient Mesoamerica. The nightscape is now an essential component in our studies of the past.”
—Traci Ardren, University of Miami

“A great group of scholars talk about a fascinating and overlooked topic.”
—Travis Stanton, University of California, Riverside

Night and Darkness in Ancient Mesoamerica is the first volume to explicitly incorporate how nocturnal aspects of the natural world were imbued with deep cultural meanings and expressed by different peoples from various time periods in Mexico and Central America. Material culture, iconography, epigraphy, art history, ethnohistory, ethnographies, and anthropological theory are deftly used to illuminate dimensions of darkness and the night that are often neglected in reconstructions of the past.

The anthropological study of night and darkness enriches and strengthens the understanding of human behavior, power, economy, and the supernatural. In eleven case studies featuring the residents of Teotihuacan, the Classic period Maya, inhabitants of Rio Ulúa, and the Aztecs, the authors challenge archaeologists to consider the influence of the ignored dimension of the night and the role and expression of darkness on ancient behavior. Chapters examine the significance of eclipses, burials, tombs, and natural phenomena considered to be portals to the underworld; animals hunted at twilight; the use and ritual meaning of blindfolds; night-blooming plants; nocturnal foodways; fuel sources and lighting technology; and other connected practices.

Night and Darkness in Ancient Mesoamerica expands the scope of published research and media on the archaeology of the night. The book will be of interest to those who study the humanistic, anthropological, and archaeological aspects of the Aztec, Maya, Teotihuacanos, and southeastern Mesoamericans, as well as sensory archaeology, art history, material culture studies, anthropological archaeology, paleonutrition, socioeconomics, sociopolitics, epigraphy, mortuary studies, volcanology, and paleoethnobotany.

Contributors: Jeremy Coltman, Christine C. Dixon-Hundredmark, Rachel Egan, Kirby Farah, Carolyn Freiwald, Nancy Gonlin, Julia Hendon, Cecelia Klein, Jeanne Lopiparo, Brian McKee, Jan Marie Olson, David M. Reed, Payson Sheets, Venicia Slotten, Michael Thomason, Randolph Widmer, W. Scott Zeleznik

Nancy Gonlin is a Mesoamerican archaeologist who specializes in daily and nightly practices, household studies, and inequality. She is editor-in-chief of Ancient Mesoamerica, and her publications include the coedited volumes Commoner Ritual and Ideology in Ancient Mesoamerica, Ancient Households of the Americas, Human Adaptation in Ancient Mesoamerica, andArchaeology of the Night. She is coauthor of Copán: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Maya Kingdom and The Archaeology of Native North America, 2nd ed. Gonlin is a professor of anthropology at Bellevue College in Washington.

David M. Reed is an anthropological archaeologist with extensive experience in stable isotope biogeochemistry, mortuary analyses, sociopolitics of the ancient Maya, human genetics, and quantitative analysis, who has done pioneering research on ancient mitochondrial DNA of the Copán Maya. He was a Genome Science Training Program Research Fellow at the Center for Statistical Genetics at the University of Michigan; a visiting scholar at the Center for Archaeological Investigations at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale; and a Summer Fellow in Pre-Columbian Studies at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC. A former research specialist at the Kellogg Eye Center of the University of Michigan and current senior research statistician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, he researches the biology and genetics of eye diseases.

University Press of Colorado Logo


  • Hardcover Price: $88.00
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-64642-100-8
  • Ebook Price: $70.00
  • 30-day ebook rental price: $35.00
  • EISBN: 978-1-64642-187-9
  • Publication Month: December
  • Publication Year: 2021
  • Pages: 370
  • Illustrations: 63
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: edited by Nancy Gonlin & David M. Reed
  • ECommerce Code: 978-1-64642-100-8

University Press of ColoradoUtah State University PressUniversity of Alaska PressUniversity of Wyoming Press