An international team of scientists has created a massive open-access database on human cultures to help answer long-standing questions about the forces that shaped human cultural diversity.
The website -- d-place.org -- consists of expandable database of places, language, culture and environment. It tries to bring together a dispersed body of information on the language, geography, culture and environment of more than 1,400 human societies.
The database comprises information on pre-industrial societies that were described by ethnographers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
"Human cultural diversity is expressed in numerous ways: from the food 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," said lead author Kathryn Kirby from the University of Toronto.
"Cultural practices vary across space and time, but the factors and processes that drive cultural change and shape patterns of diversity remain largely unknown," he added.
The database aims to help scholars to answer these long-standing questions. "Comparative research is critical for understanding the processes behind cultural diversity," said co-author Fiona Jordan from the University of Bristol.
The team's paper was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The massive database allows users to search by cultural practice (for example, monogamy vs. polygamy), environmental variable (for example, elevation and mean annual temperature), language family, or region.
The search results can be displayed on a map, a language tree or in a table, and can also be downloaded for further analysis.