Islam at the Center: Technological Complexes and the Roots of Modernity


For prehistorians, the concept of the "Neolithic toolkit" provides a means of evaluating the technological capacities of world societies on a cross-cultural basis. This article seeks to refi ne the toolkit idea by distinguishing a series of the technological complexes that, while originating in different regional contexts, became standardized over the centuries in the lands of Islam in the era before 1500 C.E. and subsequently diffused to the rest of the world. The article focuses on three case studies—the water management toolkit, the writing and information management toolkit, and the mathematics and cosmology toolkit—in an effort to explore the reasons for the apparent centrality of Islamicate societies in the assembling of these technological complexes.