Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Massive open-access database on human cultures created


An international team of researchers has developed a massive open-access database to help answer long-standing questions about the forces that shaped human cultural diversity. D-PLACE – the Database of Places, Language, Culture and Environment – brings together a dispersed body of information on the language, geography, culture and environment of more than 1,400 human societies.The team’s paper on D-PLACE is published July 8th, 2016 in the journal PLOS ONE.

The study’s lead author, Dr Kathryn Kirby, from the University of Toronto, said: “Human cultural diversity is expressed in numerous ways: from the foods we eat and the houses we build, to our religious practices and political organisation, to who we marry and the types of games we teach our children.

D-PLACE: Domestic organization: independent vs. extended familie living

K. Kirby, University of Toronto

D-PLACE: Annual Mean Temperature

P. Mader, MPI for the Science of Human History

Cultural practices vary across space and time, but the factors and processes that drive cultural change and shape patterns of diversity remain largely unknown. D-PLACE will enable a whole new generation of scholars to answer these long-standing questions about the forces that have shaped human cultural diversity.”

Co-author Russell Gray, director of the Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena where D-PLACE is hosted said: “Comparative research is critical for understanding the processes behind cultural diversity.

Over a century of anthropological research around the globe has given us a rich resource for understanding the diversity of humanity – but bringing different resources and datasets together has been a huge challenge in the past. We’ve drawn on the emerging big data sets from ecology, and combined these with cultural and linguistic data so researchers can visualise diversity at a glance, and download data to analyse in their own projects.”

D-PLACE allows users to search by cultural practice (e.g., monogamy vs. polygamy), environmental variable (e.g. elevation, mean annual temperature), language family (e.g. Indo-European, Austronesian), or region (e.g. Siberia). The search results can be displayed on a map, language tree, or in a table, and can also be downloaded for further analysis. The D-PLACE database comprises information mainly on pre-industrial societies that were described by ethnographers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

It aims to enable researchers to investigate the extent to which patterns in cultural diversity are shaped by different forces, including shared history, demographics, migration/diffusion, cultural innovations, and environmental and ecological conditions.

D-PLACE was developed by an international team of scientists interested in cross-cultural research. It includes researchers from Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human history in Jena Germany, University of Auckland, Colorado State University, University of Toronto, University of Bristol, Yale, Human Relations Area Files, Washington University in Saint Louis, and the University of Michigan.

The diverse team included linguists; anthropologists; bio-geographers; data scientists; ethnobiologists; and evolutionary ecologists, who employ a variety of research methods including field-based primary data collection; compilation of cross-cultural data sources; and analyses of existing cross-cultural datasets.

The team’s diversity is reflected in D-PLACE, which is designed to appeal to a broad user base. Envisioned users range from members of the public world-wide, who are interested in comparing their cultural practices with those of other groups, to cross-cultural researchers interested in pushing the boundaries of existing research into the drivers of cultural change.


Kathryn R. Kirby, Russell D. Gray, Simon J. Greenhill, Fiona M. Jordan, Stephanie Gomes-Ng, Hans-Jörg Bibiko, Damián E. Blasi, Carlos A. Botero, Claire Bowern, Carol R. Ember, Dan Leehr, Bobbi S. Low, Joe McCarter, William Divale, and Michael C. Gavin (2016), D-PLACE: A Global Database of Cultural, Linguistic and Environmental Diversity, PLoS one

Weitere Informationen:

D-PLACE can be accessed here:

Petra Mader | Max-Planck-Institut für Menschheitsgeschichte / Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht New population data provide insight on aging, migration
31.08.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht PRB projects world population rising 33 percent by 2050 to nearly 10 billion
25.08.2016 | Population Reference Bureau

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

First-time reconstruction of infectious bat influenza viruses

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Novel method to benchmark and improve the performance of protein measumeasurement techniques

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Amazon rain helps make more rain

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>