Thursday, July 14, 2016

Massive open-access database on human cultures created

An international team of researchers has developed a website at to help answer long-standing questions about the forces that shaped human cultural diversity.

D-PLACE - the Database of Places, Language, Culture and Environment - is an expandable, open access database that brings together a dispersed body of information on the language, geography, culture and environment of more than 1,400 human societies. It comprises information mainly on pre-industrial societies that were described by ethnographers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The team's paper on D-PLACE is published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

"Human cultural diversity is expressed in numerous ways: from the foods we eat and the houses we build, to our religious practices and political organization, to who we marry and the types of games we teach our children," said Kathryn Kirby, a postdoctoral fellow in the Departments of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Geography at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study. "Cultural practices vary across space and time, but the factors and processes that drive cultural change and shape patterns of diversity remain largely unknown.

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