In the ancient epochs, technological knowledge, its material achievements and the actual carriers of such practical knowledge and experience were constantly subject to certain forms of circulation. The early cultures of the so-called “ancient world” — the Mediterranean and Black Sea areas, the Eurasian Steppe and the Near East — were not only regionally located but also transregionally connected. Although it is seldom recognized, the ancient world was, to some degree, multicultural, multilingual and interdependent.
Technological knowledge – or the material innovations in which it was embedded – gave impetus to the emergence of new scientific knowledge: theoretical approaches, methods, formulations and explanations. This impetus was potentially given each time technological knowledge challenged the theoretical knowledge at hand. From the attempts that were made, for example, to furnish theoretical explanations of a new device, unexpected fundamental consequences could follow. Consider, for example, the well-studied case of the invention of the steelyard in the fourth century BCE. It is the attempt to explain the functioning of the innovative steelyard that led to the formulation of the law of the lever, that is, to the foundation of mechanics. In the western regions, the first formulation is found in the Mechanical Problems of Pseudo-Aristotle in the fourth century BCE.
Within the group, the foundation of mechanics and the use of pneumatic machines were studied in projects on ‘Balances, Steelyards and the Foundation of Mechanics’ and ‘Pneumatic Machines and the Constitution of Matter.’
The encounter of diverse cultures in the Mediterranean and the Near East repeatedly triggered innovative developments, the results of which have reached other, more distant (from both the synchronic and diachronic perspective) cultural spaces. Mapping the circulation of technological output and the knowledge that followed in its wake means mapping not only areas determined by specific technologies, but areas of potential theoretical development as well. Besides technology transfer, the mapping work was accomplished by focusing also on the concepts of innovation and the globalization of knowledge.
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