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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Introducing the Historical Peace Index

Seshat: Global History Databank (Seshat) and the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) are teaming up to explore a critical issue facing all human societies, past and present: how can we achieve a stable, lasting peace? Together, Seshat and IEP are working on developing a Historical Peace Index (HPI). The purpose of the HPI is […]

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A visit to the Digital History Centre at Nanjing University

Over the past six months I have been in extensive contact with Professor Tao Wang and his Digital History Centre at Nanjing University, China. Our mutual friend, Simon Mahoney (University College London), who knew I was keen to set up collaborations with digital humanists in China, put us in touch and told me that I […]

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Johannes Preiser-Kapeller examines global connections in Long Late Antiquity

A global view on Long Late Antiquity, 300-800 AD At Seshat, infrastructure is one of the nine dimensions we use to measure social complexity. Nine additional variables are used to measure the various components that collectively make up a polity’s infrastructure. One of these variables is canals. In his introduction to A global view on […]

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Translating Knowledge about Past Societies into Seshat Data

The Seshat: Global History Databank was founded in 2011 with the goal of systematically collecting data about social, political, and economic organization of human societies and how they have evolved over time. From the beginning the first guiding principle of the Seshat project was to reflect the current state of knowledge about past societies as […]

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Using Open Source Geographic Data to Model Ancient Resource Distributions

The increasing availability of open access georeferenced datasets is creating exciting opportunities for researchers in a variety of fields. Here, we discuss how several Open Access datasets have been combined in order to reconstruct the types of vegetation found in the environs of three key Neolithic sites located in the Konya Plain, Turkey. This region […]

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