Cluster of Excellence: “TOPOI: The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations”

The Topoi excellence cluster is a research network with a focus on studies of antiquity. It combines the strengths and resources of six universities and research institutions in Berlin.

Guided tour through a dark exhibition room

The exhibition “Jenseits des Horizonts / Beyond the Horizon“ (2012) in the Pergamonmuseum offered insights into the work of Topoi. © Bernd Wannenmacher

As part of Topoi, around two hundred scholars study the connections between space and knowledge in the civilizations of the ancient world. They work at different departments of the Berlin universities and nonuniversity institutions that participate in the cluster of excellence.

The cluster is located at Humboldt-Universität (Humboldt University in Berlin) and the Freie Universität. The Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities), the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (German Archaeological Institute), the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science), and the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) are cooperation partners.

The Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz participates with the archaeological collections of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin), the map collection of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin State Library), and its president, Hermann Parzinger. In the summer of 2012 the cluster of excellence presented the exhibition “Jenseits des Horizonts: Raum und Wissen in den Kulturen der Alten Welt” (Beyond the Horizon: Space and Knowledge in the Cultures of the Ancient World) at the Pergamonmuseum.

The Topoi cluster of excellence was made part of the grant program of the Exzellenzinitiative of the German federal and state governments to improve top-flight research at universities in 2006–7. In 2012 Topoi’s funding was extended for another five years through 2017. In May 2011 the institutions involved in the cluster of excellence opened the Berliner Antike-Kolleg. This college is expanding Topoi’s research activities and will continue the work begun there when the cluster of excellence ends.