Peter Turchin, University of Connecticut
Thomas E. Currie, University of Exeter
Harvey Whitehouse, University of Oxford
Pieter François, University of Oxford
Kevin Feeney, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
Daniel Mullins, University of Oxford
Daniel Hoyer, iSeshat: Global History Databank, Evolution Institute
Christina Collins, University of Exeter
Stephanie Grohmann, University of Oxford
Patrick Savage, University of Oxford
Gavin Mendel-Gleason, Trinity College Dublin
Edward Turner, Seshat: Global History Databank, Evolution Institute
Agathe Dupeyron, Seshat: Global History Databank, Evolution Institute
Enrico Cioni, Seshat: Global History Databank, Evolution Institute
Jenny Reddish, Seshat: Global History Databank, Evolution Institute
Jill Levine, Seshat: Global History Databank, Evolution Institute
Greine Jordan, Seshat: Global History Databank, Evolution Institute
Eva Brandl, Seshat: Global History Databank, Evolution Institute
Alice Williams, University of Exeter
Rudolf Cesaretti, Arizona State University
Marta Krueger, Adam Mickiewicz University
Alessandro Ceccarelli, University of Cambridge
Joe Figliulo-Rosswurm, University of California, Santa Barbara
Po-Ju Tuan, Seshat: Global History Databank, Evolution Institute
Peter Peregrine, Lawrence University
Arkadiusz Marciniak, Adam Mickiewicz University
Johannes Preiser-Kapeller, Austrian Academy of Sciences
Nikolay Kradin, Russian Academy of Sciences
Andrey Korotayev, National Research University
Alessio Palmisano, University College London
David Baker, Macquarie University
Julye Bidmead, Chapman UniversityFollow
Peter Bol, Harvard University
David Christian, Macquarie University
Connie Cook, Lehigh University
Alan Covey, University of Texas at Austin
Gary Feinman, Museum of Natural History
Árni Daníel Júlíusson, University of Iceland
Axel Kristinsson, Reykjavik Academy
John Miksic, National University of Singapore
Ruth Mostern, University of Pittsburgh
Camero Petrie, University of Cambridge
Peter Rudiak-Gould, Independent Scholar
Barend ter Haar, University of Oxford
Vesna Wallace, Chapman University
Victor Mair, University of Pennsylvania
Liye Xie, University of Toronto
John Baines, University of Oxford
Elizabeth Bridges, University of South Carolina - Columbia
Joseph Manning, Yale University
Bruce Lockhart, National University of Singapore
Amy Bogaard, University of Oxford
Charles Spencer, American Museum of Natural History

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Do human societies from around the world exhibit similarities in the way that they are structured, and show commonalities in the ways that they have evolved? These are long-standing questions that have proven difficult to answer. To test between competing hypotheses, we constructed a massive repository of historical and archaeological information known as “Seshat: Global History Databank.” We systematically coded data on 414 societies from 30 regions around the world spanning the last 10,000 years. We were able to capture information on 51 variables reflecting nine characteristics of human societies, such as social scale, economy, features of governance, and information systems. Our analyses revealed that these different characteristics show strong relationships with each other and that a single principal component captures around three-quarters of the observed variation. Furthermore, we found that different characteristics of social complexity are highly predictable across different world regions. These results suggest that key aspects of social organization are functionally related and do indeed coevolve in predictable ways. Our findings highlight the power of the sciences and humanities working together to rigorously test hypotheses about general rules that may have shaped human history.


This article was originally published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in December 2017. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1708800115

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.