About Seshat

Our collective knowledge about past societies used to be almost entirely in a form inaccessible to scientific analysis, stored in historians’ brains or scattered over heterogeneous notes and publications. The huge potential of this knowledge for testing theories about political and economic development has been largely untapped.

Founded in 2011, the Seshat: Global History Databank brings together the most current and comprehensive body of knowledge about human history in one place. Our unique Databank systematically collects what is currently known about the social and political organization of human societies and how civilizations have evolved over time.

This massive collection of historical information allows us and others to rigorously test different hypotheses about the rise and fall of large-scale societies across the globe and human history. Working with a large international and interdisciplinary team, our database offers the means to study the past through well-established scientific techniques.

The data in the Seshat Databank has been collected by research assistants and postgraduate research associates, under the supervision of a Regional Editor. This data is then vetted by expert historians and archaeologists. You can view the Seshat Expert Contributor Database here

About this site

This site is where we release to the public the datasets that have been collected by Seshat.

The primary purpose of releasing this data is to aid the Seshat project’s efforts in coding social complexity and other variables for past societies and to help us to improve the quality of our data. Our primary audience is historians and archaeologists who are expert on the societies that are included in this release.

We invite you to browse the databank to gain a better understanding of our goals and approaches. We are particularly interested in getting your feedback on specific data points.

If you see any errors or imprecisions in our data please let us know by clicking on the red pencil icon beside the offending datapoint and telling us what we got wrong.

The data released in April 2017 covers less than 5% of data that have been coded in the Seshat Databank. In addition to polities occupying the 8 NGAs (Natural Geographic Areas) in this release, we have coded 22 more NGAs (see map here). Furthermore, in addition to the social complexity variables, we are also gathering data on religion and ritual, warfare, agriculture, norms and institutions, and well-being variables (see the Codebook here). We invite archaeologists and historians with expertise on these societies and variables to become Seshat experts and help us build the Databank.

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