Testing the Axial Age

Last week the Seshat project ran a workshop on “Testing the Axial Age” in Oxford, UK. The workshop brought together a small group of scholars from different fields – historians, religious studies experts, archaeologists, and anthropologists. The goal was to discuss what exactly the ‘Axial Age’ means, and develop quantitative, data-based approaches to testing various […]

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A Call for the Development of Field Sites to Study Cultural Evolution

Seshat founding editor and Oxford University Professor Harvey Whitehouse, an anthropologist, and Seshat consultant and SUNY Binghamton Professor David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary biologist, are both are members of the Cultural Evolution Society, which aims to “catalyze the study of cultural change from a modern evolutionary perspective, both inside and outside the Ivory Tower.” Wilson […]

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What Can Seshat Databank Do for Historians?

From the presentation by Peter Turchin, the Founding Editor and Overall Coordinator of Seshat Databank, at the annual American Historical Association meeting in Denver, CO; January 2017. Writing in 1999 in Perspectives on History Robert Darnton, who was the President of American Historical Association at the time, expressed the following opinion: After a century of […]

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New archaeological evidence proves Indus farmers grew rice in the Bronze Age

Seshat expert contributor and University of Cambridge fellow Dr. Cameron Petrie and colleagues recently unearthed evidence to confirm that the people of ancient Indus (modern-day Pakistan and northwest India) first practiced rice farming in the Bronze Age—much earlier than previously believed. The research was undertaken by the University of Cambridge’s Division of Archaeology along with […]

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Alliances and patron-client relationships: a fixture in both ancient and modern complex societies

Alliances and patron-client relationships have helped support states since the beginning of social complexity. In a recent Christian Science Monitor article, Seshat contributor and Santa Fe Institute external professor Paula Sabloff analyzed equal alliances and patron-client relationships. Sabloff’s research was part of a John Templeton Foundation-funded project at the Santa Fe Institute. The project examined […]

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Chiefs Who Eat the Land: Images of Power in Hawai’i before and after Western Contact

The old Hawaiian term for the chief of a district or small island is ali’i ‘ai moku: ‘chief who eats the district’.[1] This had a literal meaning ‒ control over a district came with taxation rights over the crops and livestock of resident commoners ‒ but it also neatly expresses the indigenous conception of the […]

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Join me in supporting the Seshat Databank

Dear friends, lovers of history, and those who care about the world we live in: Please join me in supporting an international project that seeks to understand how human societies evolve. I am donating $10,000 from my book revenues this year to Seshat: Global History Databank, and I challenge you to also make a contribution! […]

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Seshat’s Harvey Whitehouse awarded European Research Council grant on “Ritual Modes”

Prof. Harvey Whitehouse and his team at Oxford University’s Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology have received an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council titled “Ritual Modes: Divergent modes of ritual, social cohesion, prosociality, and conflict.” This grant will enable Whitehouse to continue to investigate the links between ritual and social cohesion Whitehouse explained […]

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Seshat: A brief look at 150,000 data points

It has taken a long time – five years of data input and the assistance of many researchers – to acquire 150,000 sourced data points for the Seshat databank: an epic historical time series which incorporates hundreds of variables. Over this period the Seshat databank has overcome technical obstacles, refined its research methods, and at every […]

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Towards a comparative demographic archaeology

Modern governments regularly take detailed censuses to ensure that they have accurate information about population size and composition. In the UK the census in its near-to-modern form began in 1801 and has taken place every 10 years since, with the exception of 1941. Most industrialized countries have their own versions of censuses while others, such as […]

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