Cultural Evolution Lab

The Cultural Evolution Lab studies the evolution of social complexity and social cohesion. The massive and ground breaking Seshat: Global History Databank flagship project, founded by CEL members Peter Turchin, Harvey Whitehouse and Pieter François, covers very long timescales that run from the Neolithic age until the present day. Other, smaller projects focus on shorter timescales and specific geographic areas, including the Neolithic transition in the Levant, traditional pre-colonial societies and post-1945 civil war armed groups. The Cultural Evolution Lab also constitutes a centre of expertise on workflow and data quality issues for humanities and social science projects.


cel homepage photo



Our goal is to test rival social scientific hypotheses with historical and archaeological data



Theorizing Religions Past: Archaeology, History, and Cognition
Modes of Religiosity: A Cognitive Theory of Religious Transmission
Arguments and Icons: Divergent Modes of Religiosity
inside the cult
ultra society


Featured Articles

Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history
Harvey Whitehouse, Pieter François, Patrick E. Savage, et al (2019)
Quantitative historical analysis uncovers a single dimension of complexity that structures global variation in human social organization
Peter Turchin, Thomas Currie, Harvey Whitehouse, et al. (2018)
Proceedings of the National Academy of Siences of the United States of America
A systematic assessment of 'Axial Age' proposals using global comparative historical evidence
Daniel Austin Mullins, Daniel Hoyer, Christina Collins, et al (2017)
A Macroscope for Global History: Seshat Global History Databank, a methodological overview
Pieter François, J.G. Manning, Harvey Whitehouse, et al. (2016)
The Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations
Ritual and Social Evolution: Understanding Social Complexity Through Data
Harvey Whitehouse (2016)
Computational History and Data-Driven Humanities
The Role of Ritual in the Evolution of Social Complexity: Five predictions and a drum roll
Harvey Whitehouse, Pieter François,  and Peter Turchin. (2015)
Social Evolution Forum
Seshat: The Global History Databank.
Turchin, Peter, Rob Brennan, Thomas E. Currie, et al. (2015).
Cliodynamics: The Journal of Quantitative History and Cultural Evolution 
Rethinking Proximate Causation and Development in Religious Evolution.
Harvey Whitehouse (2013)
The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts