In 2011, an important Topoi conference was held at the MPIWG on the subject of Mulitilingualism, Lingua Franca and Lingua Sacra. The conference was interdisciplinary and wide-ranging, and it was part of a larger framework of a conference on Globalization of Knowledge (2007), which has been published by Jürgen Renn (2012).

The time is now ripe for a follow-up to both conferences, with a somewhat different focus:  Weg des Wissens.
The new concept is a refinement of Wissenstransfer, in seeking to define the routes and means through which knowledge moved from place to place  and from centre to centre in the ancient and medieval worlds. Multilingualism has already been treated as one avenue of transmission, but much more needs to be said on this theme, since the close relationships between scientific ideas and lingua franca are not yet fully understood.   However, historical geography also plays a role in Wissenstransfer, as already shown in the important work of Klaus Geus on Common Sense Geography, which is another necessary component for Weg des Wissens, but Common Sense Geography also has more applications to this question than have previously been suggested.  The workshop is also interested in ‘smoking guns’, i.e. texts which reflect the transfer of scientific or technical information between diverse societies, such as a recently published example of Babylonian liver divination in a late Roman Greek papyrus from Egypt.

We would also like to know the precise role of economic traffic (trade, barter, diplomatic gifts) in spreading scientific knowledge first of all in the ancient world, and later in the medieval world. A good example of such is the active trade in materia medica in the Roman Empire, which involved a  great deal of international exchange of expertise in drug technology. The scientific establishments of Mesopotamia and Egypt probably had more in common with each other than with Greece’s peripatetic philosophers, but fields such as astrology and mathematics successfully managed to cross all spacial and linguistic boundaries, probably through the mediation of Alexandria’s impressive institutions. The role of such academic centres needs to be assessed.



Mary Bachvarova (Oregon)
Marie Besnier (Cambridge, UK)
Jens Braarvig  (Oslo)
Irving Finkel (British Museum, UK)
Mark Geller (Freie Universität Berlin)
Klaus Geus (Freie Universität Berlin)
Johannes Haubold (Durham, UK)
Cale Johnson (Freie Universität Berlin)
Francesca Rochberg  (Berkeley)
Mathieu Ossendrijver (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)
John Steele  (Brown Univ. USA)
Gebhard Selz   (Vienna)
Velizar Sadovski  (Vienna)
Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim (London)


14:00 - 14:15
Gerd Graßhoff
14:15 - 15:00
Lexical lists – theoretical reasoning and oral teaching
Gebhard Selz
15:00 - 15:45
Mesopotamian lists versus Greek treatises: izbu I and Hippocrates, Nature of the Child
Marie Besnier
15:45 - 16:15
Coffee break
16:15 - 17:00
Norms and Anomaly in Cuneiform Knowledge
Francesca Rochberg
17:00 - 17:45
Sudines and the rise of Chaldeanism in the Greek world
Johannes Haubold
10:30 - 11:15
Geometrical methods in Babylonian mathematical astronomy
Mathieu Ossendrijver
11:15 - 12:00
Greek knowledge of Babylonian observational astronomy
John Steele
12:00 - 12:30
Coffee break
12:30 - 13:15
Calendrical and astronomical knowledge in 2nd Enoch
Florentina Badalanova Geller
13:15 - 14:45
14:45 - 15:30
The Vedic Liver: influences of Akkadian hepatoscopic practices on Indian prognostication
Jens Braarvig
15:30 - 16:15
Indo-Iranian sacred texts and sacrificial practices: between common heritage and divergence, reformation and privative oppositions
Velizar Sadowski
16:15 - 17:00
The Hebrew Book of Asaf: Some Persian and Syriac links
Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim
17:00 - 17:30
General discussion
Markham J. Geller
18:15 - 19:45
Reconsidering the Path for Transmission of Liver Divination Again: Scribal Lore versus Orally Transmitted Practice
(in cooperation with Dahlem Seminar for the History of Ancient Science)
Mary Bachvarova