Bronzezeitlicher Wagen; Photo: Bernd Wannemacher; © Topoi


Technological innovations do not only have a strong impact on modern life, but already shaped everyday life in ancient civilisations. The research group (D-6) Atlas of Innovations developed a comprehensive cartographic representation of technological innovations in the ancient world. The group pursued two objectives. First, it records the first appearances of important innovations over a broad geographical area. The current state of research on this subject is extremely heterogeneous. Whereas there are rich collections of data for some innovations, such as the use of copper and gold, or techniques like the wheel and furnace, for other innovations, for example balances and weights, the use of silver, etc., various sources have to be scrutinized to obtain the data. Second, the digital atlas served as a tool for comprehensively analyzing the spread of innovations and for reconstructing the relationships among them. Where, when, and why do some innovations prevail? Which regions do not adopt a development at all, or only belatedly? Where do innovations, after an initial phase, disappear again? Thus, a comprehensive view of the development of technology in the ancient world  become possible for the first time.

Additionally, the research group (D-6) Atlas of Innovations hosted the Key Topic Innovation. By means of a regular working group the Key Topic Innovation facilitated a continuous discussion of technological innovations in ancient civilisations within Topoi. Among others, the working group addresses the following questions:

What is a technological innovation?

Which ancient technological innovations are known?

Which explanatory approaches towards technological innovations have been proposed in the research literature?

Which factors make possible, foster, or impede technological innovations?

How are technological innovations related to social, political, economical and other innovations?