Research in area B proceeds from the fact that space and knowledge are interdependent ways in which ancient societies have organized themselves. Any given society embeds its common knowledge on a variety of levels in practices, symbolic systems, and concepts that involve issues of space. Societies thereby manifest themselves as spatially conceivable entities, that is, as having centers and peripheries, zones of contact, and boundaries. This operational extension of knowledge in geographical space is performed, shaped by concepts and behavior, and continually renegotiated by the actors configuring that space. The various types of knowledge involved, however, have not found much attention yet, although they are constitutive of culture manifesting itself. Most ancient cultures have limited the technique of writing to immediate societal needs; thus, explicit reference to the technologies of knowledge that are employed in the various sub-systems of ancient societies, are rare. Consequently, large parts of the social construction of both space and knowledge in ancient societies are accessible to us only by comparative methodologies.

Modern reconstructions of historical space, then, have to start from the material evidence as such. Within area B, five research-groups focus on textual and archaeological sources. They investigate the infrastructure of the Roman Empire (B-1), the management and practice of extra-large building projects (B-2), and personal vs. institutional ways of authorizing knowledge (B-5). Since any construction of historical space(s), be it ancient or modern, material or conceptual, is based on second-order modalities such as self-reassurance and ‘cultural’ identity, area-B specific investigations systematically include reflection of these conditions of research. Within the area, research projects on the various social situations of economic knowledge in ancient cultures (B-3), and on the impact of spatially conditioned identities on the emergence and implementation of knowledge (B-4) are particularly concerned with these modalities.