Codebook ~ Section Headings

  • General Approach
    • Database Architecture
      • Database Architecture
      • The basic components of the database architecture are units, variables, and spatio-temporal coordinates. Units serve as both methods of data entry and potential units of statistical analysis. They are characterized by spatio-temporal coordinates, which are dynamical (in other words, the spatial extent of a unit can change with time). Variables are coded through units, and therefore units are the means of tying values of coded variables to spatio-temporal coordinates.
      • Currently we have the following types of units (this list may be expanded as needed):
        • Natural Geographic Region (NGA). This type of unit is defined spatially by the area enclosed within a boundary drawn on the world map. It does not change with time. Its rough spatial scale is 100 km × 100 km (+/- 50%). Examples: Latium, Upper Egypt, Middle Yellow River Valley.
        • Polity. Polity is defined as an independent political unit. Kinds of polities range from villages (local communities) through simple and complex chiefdoms to states and empires. A polity can be either centralized or not (e.g., organized as a confederation). What distinguishes a polity from other human groupings and organizations is that it is politically independent of any overarching authority; it possesses sovereignty. Polities are defined spatially by the area enclosed within a boundary on the world map. There may be more than one such areas. Polities are dynamical entities, and thus their geographical extent may change with time. Thus, typically each polity will be defined by a set of multiple boundaries, each for a specified period of time. For prehistoric periods and for NGAs populated by a multitude of small-scale polities we use a variant called quasi-polity
        • Quasi-polity. The polity-based approach is not feasible for those periods when a NGA is divided up among a multitude of small-scale polities (e.g., independent villages or even many small chiefdoms) or when it is controlled in quick succession by a number of different regimes. In instances such as these we use the concept of ‘quasi-polity’ (in either its ‘spatial’ and/or ‘temporal’ sense). An example of a quasi-polity in its spatial sense is the Neo-Hittite Kingdoms, while a quasipolity in its temporal form would be the 28th-30th Dynasties of Egypt. The idea is to collect data for the quasi-polity as a whole. This way we can integrate over (often patchy) data from different sites and different polities to estimate what a ‘generic’ polity was like. Accordingly, when coding, for example, social complexity variables, enter data not for the whole NGA but for a ‘typical’ polity in it. For example, when coding for a quasi-polity polity territory is not the area of the NGA as a whole, but the average or typical area of polities within the NGA. Similarly, for societies known only archaeologically we may not be able to establish the boundaries of polities, even approximately. Quasi-polity is defined as a cultural area with some degree of cultural (including linguistic, if known) homogeneity that is distinct from surrounding areas. For example, the Marshall Islands before German occupation had no overarching native or colonial authority (chiefs controlled various subsets of islands and atolls) and therefore it was not a polity. But it was a quasi-polity because of the significant cultural and linguistic uniformity.
        • Religious System (RS). This unit is defined in ways that are analogous to a polity, except it reflects religious, rather than political authority. Religious systems are dynamical and are typically defined by a set of dated boundaries. Unlike polities, religious systems often overlap with each other.
        • City. Cities are represented by a single point on the map that doesn’t change with time. Although it is possible to reflect their spatial expansion dynamically, we chose not to do so in the current implementation.
        • Interest Group (IG). An IG is a social group that pursues some common interest, so that its members are united by a common goal or goals. Polities and religious cults are also interest groups, but the IG category is broader. It also includes ethnic groups, professional associations, warrior bands, solidarity associations, mutual aid societies, firms and banks (including their premodern variants), etc. The IG is defined sociologically, not geographically. However, if desired, a geographic area, enclosed within a boundary, may be associated with it in the same way as with a polity or a RS.
        • Freeform area (FA). This is an area enclosed within a boundary, or a dated set of boundaries. Basically, it is our method for treating an arbitrary shape on the map to which a historical expert wishes to tie certain values of coded variables. Examples include a province within an empire, something with a hole in it, or a ‘southeast corner of a region.’
    • Coding Procedure
      • Identify an NGA within the larger UTM Zone. This should be an area ideally around 100 by 100 km, or 10,000 sq. km. Dimensions, of the NGA can, however, vary by 50% (and in rare cases, more).
      • In the NGA page list chronologically all polities that were located in the NGA, or encompassed it (see Latium as an example). For periods when the NGA was fragmented among many small-scale polities, use the quasi-polity approach. In the intermediate case, when there are several (few) polities, focus on the one that controls the largest proportion of the NGA.
      • As a coding convention, we try not to have too long chunks of time on the same polity data sheet. Try to limit the length to 200-300 years, but at the same time don’t slice it too thinly. Aim at roughly 200 (100-300) year chunks, but be guided by actual historical events that result in major change. As an example, we have split Rome-Republican Period into three, see the list of polities in Latium.
      • If coding polity-based variables, switch to a polity and code all variables on its page. In other words, you don’t put any polity-related codes within the NGA sheet. The NGA is used as purely a sampling scheme, all codes go into the relevant polity sheets.
      • If coding resources, agriculture, and population, list chronologically the general ‘epochs’ and then code these variables for each period separately (again, see Latium NGA for an example).
      • * Same approach is used to add lists of religious systems and cities, in which case entry is linked to the page where codes for the RS or city are.
    • Policy on Coding inferred present and inferred absent
      • As a coding convention, use the inferred absent/ inferred present’ codes to code a specific variable when the available literature does not provide unequivocal evidence of presence/absence for that trait, yet there is reason to infer or deduce that the trait was or was not present in the society.
      • The inferred present code should be used when other evidence implies or requires the existence of some trait in the polity. For instance, if it is known that goods were transported overland along routes which crossed large river-ways and that wood was the primary construction material in the polity, it may be reasonable to infer the presence of bridges in the Transport Infrastructure section even if bridges are not specifically mentioned in the sources (as this could be due to the perishability of the building material).
      • The inferred absence code should be used wherever it seems likely that a trait is not mentioned in the available literature because the trait was indeed absent from the polity, rather than simply being unavailable to modern scholars for lack of surviving evidence. For instance, in the Kinds of Written Documents section, if the polity has written records that survive and there is no mention in any source of any works of fiction known from the polity, then it may be appropriate to code inferred absence for the Fiction variable.
      • Coders should let logic guide their decisions. It is crucial that all inferred absent /inferred present codes be followed by a detailed explanation in the descriptive section clarifying the nature of and reason for the inference.
  • Main Variables (polity-based)
    • General variables
    • Social Complexity variables
      • Social Scale
      • Hierarchical Complexity
      • Professions
      • Bureaucracy characteristics
      • Law
      • Specialized Buildings: polity owned
      • Information
      • Other
    • Warfare variables
      • Military Technologies
      • Military Organization
      • General Characteristics of Warfare
        • Types of Warfare
        • Cultural distance
        • Intensity of warfare
      • List of Wars
      • Warfare coding template
        • General
        • War type
        • Cultural distance
        • Sieges, Battles, and Naval Engagements
        • Consequences for territories
        • Battle template
        • Siege Template
    • Ritual variables
      • Largest scale collective ritual of the official cult
      • Most widespread collective ritual of the official cult
      • Most frequent collective ritual of the official cult
      • Most euphoric collective ritual of the official cult
      • Most dysphoric collective ritual
  • Other Variables (polity-based)
    • Institutional Variables
      • Institutional Variables
      • Limits on Power of the Chief Executive
      • Central Bureaucracy
      • Local-level officials (provincial, regional, civic administration)
    • Legal System
      • Informal Justice
      • Property Rights
    • Equity
      • Sex, Class and Race
      • Discrimination
    • Social Mobility
      • Status
      • Slavery
    • Religion
      • Deification of Rulers
      • Religious Aspects of Equity and Prosociality
      • Religious arguments about slavery and sacrifice
      • Religious morality
    • Well-Being
      • Economic Well-Being
      • Public Goods
      • Entertainment and Knowledge Well-Being
      • Biological Well-Being
      • Prosocial Behavior
    • Economy variables (polity-level)
      • State Income
      • Taxation
      • Wages and Costs
  • Agriculture, Economy, and Population Variables (NGA-based)
    • Economy and Technology variables (NGA-Level)
      • Economy and Technology variables (NGA-Level)
      • Energy Sector
      • Metals Sector
      • Construction Sector
      • Housing
      • Funerary Construction
      • Banking and Finance Sector
      • Information and Communication Sector
      • Entertainment Sector
      • Transport and Trade Sector
        • Transport infrastructure
        • International Trade
        • Domestic Trade
        • Markets
      • Other Sectors
        • Ceramics
        • Luxury Goods
      • Professions and Workshops
    • Agriculture
      • Background
        • Background
        • General Description
        • Human Geography
        • Environment
        • Agricultural Land Use
        • Features of Cultivation
      • Agricultural Technology and practices
        • Tools
        • Soil Preparation
        • Conventions and Techniques
        • Post#Harvest, Food Storage and Preservation
      • Social Scale of Food Production
        • Harvesting of Crops
      • Agricultural Intensity
        • Food Production
        • Dietary Importance
      • Major Carbohydrate Sources
    • Population
      • Estimated Carrying Capacity

* The complete Seshat Codebook can be downloaded here