Wonder how to get started using D-PLACE?


D-PLACE, or the Database of Places, Language, Culture, and Environment, is an attempt to bring together the dispersed corpus of information describing human cultural diversity. It aims to make it easy for individuals to contrast their own cultural practices with those of other societies, and to consider the factors that may underlie cultural similarities and differences.

So far, D-PLACE contains cultural, linguistic, environmental and geographic information for over 1400 human ‘societies’. A ‘society’ in D-PLACE represents a group of people in a particular locality, who often share a language and cultural identity. All cultural descriptions are tagged with the date to which they refer and with the ethnographic sources that provided the descriptions. The majority of the cultural descriptions in D-PLACE are based on ethnographic work carried out in the 19th and early-20th centuries (pre-1950).

In linking societies to a geographic location (using a reported latitude and longitude) and language, D-PLACE allows interested users to simultaneously consider how cultural practices relate to linguistic ancestry, practices of neighbouring cultures, and the environment. D-PLACE makes visualizing these relationships easy, with search results available as a table, on a map, or on a linguistic tree.

While D-PLACE is designed to be expandable, most of the initial cultural data in D-PLACE were originally compiled by three anthropologists: George P. Murdock, Lewis R. Binford, Joseph G. Jorgensen, each relying on hundreds of individual references. These core datasets are described in more detail on the Data Sources page.

How to cite

Research that uses data from D-PLACE should cite the following paper:

Kathryn R. Kirby, Russell D. Gray, Simon J. Greenhill, Fiona M. Jordan, Stephanie Gomes-Ng, Hans-Jörg Bibiko, Damián E. Blasi, Carlos A. Botero, Claire Bowern, Carol R. Ember, Dan Leehr, Bobbi S. Low, Joe McCarter, William Divale, and Michael C. Gavin. (2016). D-PLACE: A Global Database of Cultural, Linguistic and Environmental Diversity. PLoS ONE, 11(7): e0158391. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0158391.

Short version:

Kirby, K.R., Gray, R. D., Greenhill, S. J., Jordan, F. M., 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.

Users should also cite the original source(s) of the data.


D-PLACE was developed with generous support from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.


D-PLACE would not exist without the cultural datasets upon which it relies; we would like to acknowledge the years of work by George P. Murdock and Lewis R. Binford, and the enormous contributions made by other scholars in the field towards their maintenance and updating.

Robert Colwell, Karen Cranston, Michael Dunn, Robert Dunn, Robert Forkel, Harald Hammarström, Amber Johnson and Carl Simon provided valuable insights into the data or structure of D-PLACE.

We would also like to thank all researchers and groups who made a Bayesian phylogenetic tree available for inclusion in D-PLACE, including Quentin Atkinson, Remco Bouckaert, Rebecca Grollemund, Thiago Chacon, Mattis List, Sean Lee, Toshikazu Hasegawa, Mark Sicoli, and Gary Holton.

Finally, a number of people provided assistance in preparing data for inclusion in D-PLACE, including Christopher Blackford, Kaylin Clements, Anna Kellogg, Hannah Haynie, Patrick Kavanagh, Ameena Khan, Beata Opalinska, Anum Rafiq, Anastasia Stellato, George Tsourounis, Sreeja Mitra and Xinyu Pei.

We are grateful to the Max Planck Institute for its commitment to provide long-term hosting for D-PLACE.


  • Hannah J Haynie, Patrick H Kavanagh, Fiona M Jordan, Carol R Ember, Russell D Gray, Simon J Greenhill, Kathryn R Kirby, Geoff Kushnick, Bobbi S Low, Ty Tuff, Bruno Vilela, Carlos A Botero, Michael C Gavin. (2021). Pathways to social inequality. Evolutionary Human Sciences, 3, e35, 1-14. DOI: 10.1017/ehs.2021.32
  • Vilela, B.; Fristoe, T.; Tuff, T.; Kavanagh, P. H.; Haynie, H. J.; Gray, R. D.; Gavin, M. C.; Botero, C. A.: Cultural transmission and ecological opportunity jointly shaped global patterns of reliance on agriculture. Evolutionary Human Sciences 2, e53, pp. 1 - 11 (2020) DOI: 10.1017/ehs.2020.55
  • Coelho, M. T. P., Pereira, E. B., Haynie, H. J., Rangel, T. F., Kavanagh, P., Kirby, K., et al. (2019). Drivers of geographical patterns of North American language diversity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 286(1899): 20190242. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2019.0242
  • Moravec, J. C., Atkinson, Q. D., Bowern, C., Greenhill, S. J., Jordan, F. M., Ross, R., Gray, R. D., Marsland, S. and Cox, M. P. (2018). Post-marital residence patterns show lineage-specific evolution. Evolution and Human Behavior, 39(6): 594–601. DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2018.06.002
  • Gavin, MC, Kavanagh PK, Haynie HJ, Bowern C, Ember CR, Gray RD, Jordan FM, Kirby KR, Kushnick G, Low BS, Vilela B, Botero CA. 2018. The global geography of human subsistence. Royal Society Open Science 5: 171897. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.171897
  • Kavanagh, P.H., Vilela, B., Haynie, H.J., Tuff, T., Lima-Ribeiro, M., Gray, R.D., Botero, C.A., and Gavin, M.C. 2018. Hindcasting global population densities reveals forces enabling the origin of agriculture, Nature Human Behaviour 2: 478-484. DOI: 10.1038/s41562-018-0358-8
  • Kirby, K.R., Gray, R. D., Greenhill, S. J., Jordan, F. M., 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
  • Botero, C. A., Gardner, B., Kirby, K. R., Bulbulia, J., Gavin, M. C., & Gray, R. D. (2014). The ecology of religious beliefs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(47), 16784-16789. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1408701111