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? To address these long-standing questions, we constructed a database of historical and archaeological information from 30 regions around the world over the last 10,000 years. Our analyses revealed that characteristics, such as social scale, economy, features of governance, and information systems, show strong evolutionary relationships with each other and that complexity of a society across different world regions can be meaningfully measured using a single principal component of variation. 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.
Quantitative historical analysis uncovers a single dimension of complexity that structures global variation in human social organization
Peter Turchin, Thomas E. Currie, Harvey Whitehouse, Pieter François, Kevin Feeney, Daniel Mullins, Daniel Hoyer, Christina Collins, Stephanie Grohmann, Patrick Savage, Gavin Mendel-Gleason, Edward Turner, Agathe Dupeyron, Enrico Cioni, Jenny Reddish, Jill Levine, Greine Jordan, Eva Brandl, Alice Williams, Rudolf Cesaretti, Marta Krueger, Alessandro Ceccarelli, Joe Figliulo-Rosswurm, Po-Ju Tuan, Peter Peregrine, Arkadiusz Marciniak, Johannes Preiser-Kapeller, Nikolay Kradin, Andrey Korotayev, Alessio Palmisano, David Baker, Julye Bidmead, Peter Bol, David Christian, Connie Cook, Alan Covey, Gary Feinman, Árni Daníel Júlíusson, Axel Kristinsson, John Miksic, Ruth Mostern, Cameron Petrie, Peter Rudiak-Gould, Barend ter Haar, Vesna Wallace, Victor Mair, Liye Xie, John Baines, Elizabeth Bridges, Joseph Manning, Bruce Lockhart, Amy Bogaard and Charles Spencer
PNAS 2017; published ahead of print December 21, 2017, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1708800115