D-PLACE — A Global Database of Cultural, Linguistic and Environmental Diversity

  • D-PLACE — the Database of Places, Language, Culture, and Environment.
  • D-PLACE contains cultural data from Ethnographic Atlas database and Binford Hunter-Gatherer database.
  • It is a an open-access database.

In July 9th, a paper titled D-PLACE: A Global Database of Cultural, Linguistic and Environmental Diversity was published in Plos One. The paper describes newly created database called D-PLACE funded by Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, , the National Science Foundation and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Centre.

The database contains coded information from the various other databases and makes it openly accessible for everyone. These bases describe languages, cultures and environment. For cultural features Ethnographic Atlas (EA) developed by Murdock was used along with Binford’s Hunter-Gatherer database. EA includes ethnographic documents mainly about pre-industrial societies, 1291 in total and Binford’s database is about 339 Hunter-gatherer societies. It is noted that in EA most of the data (69%) was gathered in between 1900 and 1950 and nearly the same amount (63%) of data was gathered in 19th century contained in Binford’s database. While both of these databases have codes, creators of the D-PLACE recoded information but also attached the original codes, so they are easily identifiable outside D-PLACE.

For language information was taken from Glottolog and environmental data was extracted from EA and Binford’s database where available.

The authors of the paper say that the database permits generating maps and other types of visual data (see example below).

The whole idea of the database is to tests hypothesis about cultural features. The Authors of the paper distinguish three main categories of studies: evolutionary analysis, predictive and exploratory.

We aim 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. — Kirby KR, Gray RD, Greenhill SJ, Jordan FM, Gomes-NG S, Bibiko H-J, et al.

The great advantages of D-PLACE are that it gathers huge information from different databases, codes the information so you can readily treat them as variables, generates visual output and makes all the information accessible for everyone. It should be noted, that D-PLACE does not contain much textual information except for the brief comments.

Altmetrics (for 23/07/2016)

Altmetrics page. The original article.


Kirby KR, Gray RD, Greenhill SJ, Jordan, FM, Gomes-Ng S, Bibiko H-J, et al. (2016) D-PLACE: A Global Database of Cultural, Linguistic and Environmental Diversity. PLoS ONE 11(7): e0158391. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0158391

note: the maps and diagrams are taken from the original article and I don’t claim ownership.