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Working the Night Shift: Life After Dark in the Ancient World

Oct 7, 2021 07:00 PM Eastern Time

Presenter: Dr. April Nowell

Location: Zoom (register here)

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.

So much of our economic, social, and ritual lives take place at night and yet, until recently, relatively little archaeological research has been undertaken specifically on nocturnal quotidian practices. Many tasks are uniquely suited to the affordances of nighttime. Night is often quieter, and its darkness provides refuge from heat and offers freedom from surveillance and from the demands of the day.

In this talk, I consider those who worked the “nightshift” in ancient societies—from the hunters, agriculturists, sewage workers, and ironsmiths to the poets, navigators, and rebellion leaders. Drawing on archaeological data and textual evidence, I argue that nighttime in the ancient world was anything but sleepy.



All presentations are free and open to the public.  Prior to the pandemic, most events were held on the campus of Wittenberg University.  We look forward to meeting there again as public health considerations permit.

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