Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Abstract

Through time people have repeatedly sought out enclosed dark spaces in which to carry out particular activities ranging from ritual retreat and initiation ceremonies to votive deposition and burial. This desire to seek out and spend time in places of absolute darkness forms the focus of this conference. We hope to gain insights into why people have required these dark silent spaces, and how such environments can affect people physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. 

What was the role of dark places in the life of a community? Were there associations with solitude, transformation, sanctuary, regeneration, or death? How did interactions between people and darkness affect the individual and how s/he was regarded by the rest of the community? And how did this interaction transform places in the landscape? The archaeology of darkness conference will explore Palaeolithic use of deep caves in Europe and the placement of art; how the orientation of mortuary monuments in the Neolithic and Bronze Age changed from a focus on the rising to the setting sun; how the senses are affected in caves and monuments that were used for ritual activities; the experiences of Bronze Age miners who worked in dangerous subterranean settings; journeying deep inside caves in Late Bronze Age Ireland; the interplay between darkness and light from a Christian monastic perspective; a caver’s experience of spending long periods underground; and darkness as represented in folklore and mythology.