HighPots meets Oxford: Measurable research results through our Data Analytics

Study: Influence of religions on civilizations

  • University of Oxford, with the help of research partner HighPots, analyzes influence of religions on civilizations among 414 different societies over the past 10,000 years.
  • As part of the EU research project Horizon2020, HighPots received the award "Best Technology Partner for Cultural Studies".


The HighPots team faced an impressive list of challenges at the start of the analysis:

Another hurdle was Brexit, which meant the project had to be accelerated. We met this challenge by changing our research methods and increasing the number of staff.


The university chose HighPots because we could provide the track record and successful completion of similar projects, e.g. for the Lab for Information and Decision Systems located at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Using combined data mining and data analytics techniques, we worked with the researchers to identify relevant data sources, some of which the university had spent decades compiling through elaborate scanning processes.

Many religions were eliminated, in part because they did not differ drastically from one another, were too close in time or geography, or because the data volumes were insufficient.

In the end, 30 of over 400 religions remained. The situation was similar for the societies. In the end, 414 societies out of more than 4,000 remained. This is because the prerequisite for the analysis is that complex civilizations also form from simple societies; for this to happen, a society must exist for many hundreds of years.

Another hurdle was also the Brexit, which dictated an acceleration of the project. We met this challenge by changing an investigation method and adding more staff.


After completion of the analysis, the following results were obtained:

Religions supported the formation of civilizations, especially in the early periods when societies were being formed. After a certain point, a level of reached civilization (complexity level), religions hinder the civilizational advancement, so that these societies could form only with difficulty.
It is assumed that the rules of religions (e.g. in Christianity as the “10 commandments”) enable the formation of a society in the first place, but slow down enlightenment in the further course of social development.

“My department at the EU has been working with HighPots since 2014. HighPots supports EU research projects in the fields of culture and education as a scientific and technological service provider for universities and institutes in the European Union. The excellent scientific contribution of HighPots has been appreciated by research institutions and ensured the successive expansion of strategic partnerships in recent years.”

HighPots ist Forschungspartner der EU für Datenanalyse und Statistik

Tibor Navracsics

EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport

The full data are now publicly available in the Seshat data space.
The complete results have been published in Nature.