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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The importance of Cliodynamics in a post-Brexit world

Why do politicians so often repeat their past mistakes when facing modern economic and political crises? Why does it prove so difficult time and time again to get people from different nationalities, different cultures to work together for the common good? It only brings harm when governments see no value in the lessons of history. […]

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Coding rituals: the example of modern Inti Raymi (Peru)

After the Seshat team cleaned ritual data in May, I was eager to see how our coding approach could apply to contemporary rituals. On 24th June, I travelled to the former capital of the Tawantinsuyu empire—Cusco, the Navel of the Universe—to attend the annual Inti Raymi festival. It is modelled after a famous Inka ritual […]

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Supersize my data

Notes from the Global Social Science Research Meeting, University of Pittsburgh, July 22-3 2016 We live in the Digital Age. The development of communications and research technologies in recent years have made the world smaller—travel and communication is faster, easier, and wider, connecting the world in ways never seen before. The flip-side to living in […]

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Visualizing values mismatch in the European Union

In my July 1 post, Brexit as Destructive Creation, I argued that one significant cause for the European dysfunction was the choice made by the European elites to expand the union too fast too far. Why do I think this was a mistake? As I have said on numerous occasions (in this blog and in […]

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Cultural diversity database D-PLACE officially launches

Researchers interested in cultural evolution often highlight the importance of taking cultural diversity seriously. Human cultural systems are quite diverse, they note, but much research suffers from a chronic form of tunnel vision. Without a comprehensive map of cultural diversity, researchers are likely to make false inferences from relatively homogenous sampling pools. We can’t see […]

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The evolving union of Europe: lessons from deep history

The outcome of the EU membership referendum in the UK is yet another example of a disintegrative trend in Europe that has spread over the last 5-10 years, argues Prof Peter Turchin in a recent blog post. What’s next? Turchin’s answer is quite radical, but will be familiar to anyone who has observed the technique […]

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Network science can be used to illuminate the laws of history

Austrian Academy of Science computational historian and Seshat contributor Johannes Preiser-Kapeller was recently interviewed by Technology Review on the use of network science in historical research. Network science can help us understand processes of very different natures that share the same network structure (the way that nodes are connected by links). Examples include the spread […]

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