This paper analyzes ‘innovation’ as a discursive, narrative and dramatized construction with a strong tendency towards reification. I review examples, arguing for an understanding of innovation that moves away from new physical or epistemic things, to advocate instead a discourse-critical, practice-centered and contextualized understanding of innovations. Two cases from ancient Mesopotamia illustrate my argument. The first is found in every treatise on world historical changes: the introduction of writing. The second is a previously underappreciated and unperceived innovation for which there is even no clear expression: the emergence of a ‘documentary gaze‘. I elucidate its original context with pictorial evidence and describe the political dimensions surrounding this innovation.