Teotihuacan at Night: A Classic Period Urban Nocturnal Landscape in the Basin of Mexico (2024)

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Proceedings: II International Conference on Night Studies

Dangers in the Night: Archaeological case studies of the ancient Mayas of Mesoamerica

2021 •

Nancy Gonlin

Throughout human history, nighttime has often been perceived as a dangerous time. The perspective of the archaeology of the night employs material evidence, art history, epigraphy, and the judicious use of ethnohistorical and ethnographical materials to allow us to envision how ancient peoples faced the dark nights of the past. Darkness constituted an essential component for arousing fear of the night, so much so, that darkness was considered sacred. For the ancient Mayas who thrived in the neotropics of Mesoamerica, the primordial night was equated with the time before creation, while the nights of human experience held equally great symbolic value. To cope with drastic nocturnal changes, people created rituals, myths, tales, and technologies to comfort and keep themselves in safe places. A different cast of characters emerged at night, some of whom were innocuous while others were harbingers of fear and fright. For the ancient Mayas of Mexico and Central America, the landscape thrived with crepuscular creatures, such as jaguars, bats, owls, poisonous snakes, and scorpions, all of which were imbued with powers to harm humans. Deer, rabbits, and stray dogs emerged as dusk settled in, devouring crops and destroying the livelihood of the people. It was not advisable to be out alone walking the trails at night: wahy beings brought disease and destruction upon all who came upon them. Sorcery was best performed in the dark, making an encounter with a nocturnal being perilous. Religion and ritual helped mitigate such dangers. The Moon Goddess's routine was well noted with sophisticated lunar calendars: rulers and farmers alike synchronized their livelihoods with her phases, while the Nine Lords of the Night presided. From humble houses to royal residences, the material and the spiritual were utilized to great effect to ward off the dangers of the night.

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ICNS Conference Proceedings

Urban Nightscapes of the Late Classic Maya of Mesoamerica

2020 •

Nancy Gonlin

(EN) The urban experience is a phenomenon that we humans created beginning about 5,000 years ago, but we have faced the night for eons. Archaeology is uniquely suited to answer long-term questions of urban adaptation, and in particular, how humans coped with nocturnal dimensions of city life. A case study that well illustrates the challenges and opportunities of the night and how these reflect inequalities is the culture of the Late Classic Maya (600-900 CE) of Mexico and Central America (Mesoamerica). In the neotropics, Maya people constructed grand cities of sky-high temples, palatial residences, grand open plazas, roads, and residential areas we would call suburbs. The Maya created an enduring culture that thrived as much during the day as it did during the night and their infrastructure both facilitated and hampered nocturnal practices and reinforced social inequalities. The duality of Mesoamerican philosophy pervaded the natural cycle of the Earth's rotation, lending distinct characteristics to daylight and darkness. Dark nights and dark doings characterized the Classic Maya realm, a world full of real and fantastical beasts that roamed the landscape after sunset, in urban and rural venues alike. The night was ideal for some activities, such as communing with the ancestors, while the darkness obscured and prevented others, such as safe travel. The creation of a unique nighttime atmosphere by country folk and city-dwellers was shared across social strata, binding together commoners and king. Disparities, however, were illuminated in the material, such as housing and lighting, and in the performance of nocturnal culture, such as how opulently one communed with the dead. Essential activities ensued during the night as it was simultaneously the domain of the servant and the served, each having unique contributions to society. Drudgery and duty prevailed as it did during daylight hours, with royalty performing their tasks to ensure the continuance of the polity with their many rituals and followers attending to mundane activities of cooking and agriculture. Nightly

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After Dark: The Nocturnal Urban Landscape and Lightscape of Ancient Cities

Lunar Power in Ancient Maya Cities

2022 •

Kristin Landau, Christopher Hernandez

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In Archaeology of the Night: Life After Dark in the Ancient World, ed. Nancy Gonlin and April Nowell, 201-222. Boulder: University Press of Colorado.

Where Night Reigns Eternal: Darkness and Deep Time among the Ancient Maya

2018 •

Jeremy Coltman

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Making Meaning: Precolumbian Archaeology, Art History, and the legacy of Terence Grieder

The Disembodied Eye in Maya Art and Ritual Practice

2022 •

Virginia E. Miller

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University Press of Colorado, Louisville.

The Cave and the Skirt: A Consideration of Classic Maya Ch' een Symbolism

2021 •

Jeremy Coltman

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Archaeology of the Night

Introduction to the Archaeology of the Night

2018 •

Nancy Gonlin

As twilight settled in the ancient world, a host of activities ensued, some of which were significantly different from what people did during the daytime. Some artifacts, features, and buildings associated with these activities were particular to the dark, while other material culture was transformed in meaning as the sun set. Night offers refuge from the heat and demands of the day but can also bring with it nightmares, night raids, and other dark doings. Sleep, sex, socializing, stargazing, storytelling, ceremony, work and play—so much of our economic, social and ritual lives, take place at night and yet relatively little archaeological research has been undertaken specifically on nightly quotidian practices. Does darkness obscure these activities for the archaeologist or is it that we need to learn to see them? This volume examines the archaeology, mythology, iconography, and epigraphy of “strange” nocturnal doings and in the process will challenge our “familiar” reconstructions of ancient life. Topics include the liminal periods of dusk and dawn, archaeological evidence for the diversity of sleep (where one sleeps, in what one sleeps, and with whom one sleeps), the practical and psychological effects of artificial light, and the origins of the ‘night shift.’ Contributors to this volume explore the concept of the nighttime within a comparative anthropological framework to provide the broadest possible interpretation of individual case studies drawn from a wide range of ancient and prehistoric cultures from diverse areas of the globe.

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Religions

Reassessing Shamanism and Animism in the Art and Archaeology of Ancient Mesoamerica

2021 •

Eleanor Harrison-Buck, David Freidel

Shamanism and animism have proven to be useful cross-cultural analytical tools for anthropology, particularly in religious studies. However, both concepts root in reductionist, social evolutionary theory and have been criticized for their vague and hom*ogenizing rubric, an overly romanticized idealism, and the tendency to ‘other’ nonwestern peoples as ahistorical, apolitical, and irrational. The alternative has been a largely secular view of religion, favoring materialist processes of rationalization and “disenchantment.” Like any cross-cultural frame of reference, such terms are only informative when explicitly defined in local contexts using specific case studies. Here, we consider shamanism and animism in terms of ethnographic and archaeological evidence from Mesoamerica. We trace the intellectual history of these concepts and reassess shamanism and animism from a relational or ontological perspective, concluding that these terms are best understood as distinct ways of knowing the world and acquiring knowledge. We examine specific archaeological examples of masked spirit impersonations, as well as mirrors and other reflective materials used in divination. We consider not only the productive and affective energies of these enchanted materials, but also the potentially dangerous, negative, or contested aspects of vital matter wielded in divinatory practices.

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CV as of 1 15 23 Do I info

Cecelia F . Klein

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Wing and a Prayer: An Ethnological and Iconographic Comparison of Animal Symbolism and Spiritual Belief in Pre-Columbian South and Mesoamerica

Stacey A Giulianti

The Pre-Columbian world was filled with gods and supernatural powers that influenced the lives of mortals from cradle to grave -- and beyond. As creators of the 'natural world' -- the plants and animals upon which such people relied for survival -- the gods often had animal forms or familiars to represent them in man's earthly court. The power of the gods' animalistic strength, as carved into stone by Pre-Columbian artisans, was obvious even to the arriving conquistadors as Juan Diaz expressed above. The native cultures "sought their ancestors and origins in the close relationships between humans and animals." Man lived closer to the environment in Pre-Columbian times than in much of our modern world. The ancient people's "dependency on the environment gave rise to a sense of awe and respect for the entire universe."

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Teotihuacan at Night: A Classic Period Urban Nocturnal Landscape in the Basin of Mexico (2024)
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