The storms of human history: Introducing the Crisis Databank

In recent weeks, mass protests have gripped North America, Europe and elsewhere, all taking place against the backdrop of a global pandemic, a changing climate and a possible sixth mass extinction.[1] Meanwhile, the Seshat team is working on something that may at first seem rather tangential—escapist, even. We’re building a historical database. Delving into the annals […]

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Work with Us: Knowledge Engineer/Webmaster/Tech Guru

Seshat: Global History Databank and Complexity Science Hub Vienna are hiring a technical lead to help support the Seshat project. The position will be based in Vienna. Please share widely with your networks and contact us with any questions at seshatghd@gmail.com A full description for the position is available here.  

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David Carballo’s Collision of Worlds Examines the Fall of the Aztec Empire through Archaeology

As Associate Professor of Archaeology, Anthropology, and Latin American Studies at Boston University, Seshat contributor David Carballo specializes in Mesoamerican archaeology, focusing particularly on the pre-Hispanic civilizations of central Mexico. Carballo’s latest work, Collision of Worlds, examines the toppling of the Aztec empire at the hands of a group of Spaniards—along with tens of thousands of […]

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All in the Details: History and the Seshat Method

As an historian, I came to the Seshat Databank—specifically, to its current project collecting data on social complexity, warfare and inequality in prehistoric Europe—with an understanding of the past, but not the material-based, schematic understanding that seems to characterize archaeological investigation. This new focus was a slight learning curve. I had to shift from my […]

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Seshat Histories Volume I is out now!

Way back in December of 2017, the Seshat team brought a group of historians and anthropologists to Oxford University for a workshop on ‘Testing the Axial Age’. This meeting was part of a project supported by a large grant from the John Templeton Foundation to investigate the ways that human societies have supported extreme inequalities—in […]

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Solving the Puzzle of the Supercooperators Means Studying Cooperation Cooperatively

Until about 10,000 years ago, humans everywhere lived in small foraging groups with a simple material culture and a weak division of labour. These groups lacked professional militia, priesthoods, bureaucrats, lawyers, and academics. The ability to store information was limited, since writing had not yet been invented and the transmission of technological knowledge and tradition […]

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Moreno Garcia Challenges Concept of Pharaonic Exceptionalism in The State in Ancient Egypt

Seshat contributor Dr. Juan Carlos Moreno Garcia has just published a book which provides a new analysis of the structure of Egypt’s pharaonic state. The State of Ancient Egypt reviews recent developments in political, archaeological, and comparative theories on the structures of ancient empires and states. The book refutes older views still often seen in […]

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Historians and Historical Databases

In recent days there was much discussion by historians on Twitter of the proper and improper uses of historical knowledge in testing social science theories. It was initially prompted by the publication of a Science article last week on historical Church exposure and global psychological variation. Most of it was quite negative (I am still […]

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New Nature Paper: Moralizing Gods Emerged After the Evolution of Complex Societies

Humans invented “big gods” after the rise of complex large-scale societies, according to a recent analysis of 10,000 years of history by the Seshat: Global History Databank team. Big gods are defined as moralizing deities who punish ethical transgressions. Contrary to prevailing theories, our team found that beliefs in big gods are a consequence, not […]

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How Peaceful Was Life in the Past?

What was the quality of life for people living in historical and prehistoric societies? One particularly important dimension of quality of life is freedom from violent death. How high was the probability of being murdered by another person? Modern statistics that express violent death rates per 100,000 people per year don’t extend very far back […]

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