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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The football fan’s dysphoria: new paper on football clubs supports prediction about power of rituals

How can the Seshat: Global History Databank be used to make policy recommendations for modern times? By examining key aspects of societies in the past, we can better understand the factors that lead to political turbulence, war, and the collapse of empires. Ritual is one of these key aspects.

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New Scientist gives a history lesson on Seshat

One of the main motivations for developing Seshat is to use our store of coded information to cut through the tangled undergrowth of competing theories that has grown up around our understanding of human history. An article written by Laura Spinney just published in the latest issue of New Scientist does a nice job of bringing […]

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Can Science Show Us a Way To Stop Terrorism?

Last month, the Science network’s innovative documentary series Through The Wormhole debuted its seventh season with an with a provocative opening line: “We’re at war.” The episode, titled ‘What Makes a Terrorist?’, brings together anthropologists, behaviorists, and other scientists to explain why people would commit atrocious acts in the name of some cause. More importantly, […]

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Human history as fractal: How patterns repeat at all scales in our shared past and continue to shape the future

Fractal patterns are found within mountains, crystals and galaxies – and everywhere else in the natural world. Is human history mind-bogglingly fractal too? I think it is; and it might change the way you see the world. What is a fractal? A fractal, like the Mandelbrot Set, is a mathematical equation. It describes patterns that […]

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Buddha, bandits and bondsmen: Some questions about ancient Javanese states

As a Seshat research assistant, I’ve been reading about the history of early Javanese states for several weeks now. In the mid-1st millennium CE, these self-proclaimed kingdoms began to emerge on the volcanic plateaus in the centre of the island. Rulers adopted Sanskrit titles and aspects of the religious traditions ‒ Buddhism, Shaivist and Vaishnavist […]

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Examining Social Complexity, Religion, and Prosociality in Southeast Asia and Beyond

Southeast Asia provides an important and fascinating window into understanding why human social formations became more complex over the last several millennia. Yet, much of the theorizing and analysis surrounding the evolution of complex societies around the globe has focused on evidence from regions such as the Middle East or Europe, meaning that scholars have […]

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