Pulotu, the proto-Polynesian word for the abode of the gods, is a database of supernatural beliefs and practices across Austronesian cultures. The database includes 116 Austronesian cultures and 62 variables on religion, history, society, and the natural environment. This database is specifically designed to test evolutionary hypotheses of religious belief and practice, with a primary focus on the traditional state of cultures. A major advantage of Pulotu is that robust language phylogenies are available for Austronesian cultures. This enables the use of phylogenetic comparative methods which provide the ability to reconstruct the states of proto-cultures, account for common ancestry in cross cultural analysis, and test for correlated evolution between traits.
Database Content +

Cultures

Being expert voyagers, Austronesians settled as far west as Madagascar and as far east as Rapanui - an area spanning over half the world’s longitude. The physical environments they inhabited ranged from tiny atolls such as Tongareva to the isolated mountainous interiors of large islands such as Taiwan. The social and religious features of these cultures were no less diverse. Social structures ranged from acephalous nomadic bands to large, complex states. Supernatural beliefs systems included localised nature spirits and the spirits of recent ancestors, as well as structured pantheons of powerful gods. Supernatural practices include ritual dances, human sacrifice and headhunting. It was this diversity of religious belief and practice that inspired the first comparative studies of religion (Swain, & Trompf, 1995).

Variables

Pulotu contains a total of 62 variables of which 17 concern religious belief, 4 religious practice, 10 the social environment and 12 the physical environment. This set of variables is divided into three major sections, each covering a distinct time period in a cultures history. The first and largest section is the traditional state section, which contains information on the state of the culture prior to large-scale modernisation. The second section covers the post-contact history, the time period spanning from the traditional state of the cultures to their contemporary state. The third section is the contemporary state, documenting the contemporary state of the culture.

Further Information

Definitions of the terms used throughout Pulotu can be found in our glossary section. For all other enquiries please visit our contact page.
The Team +
Prof. Russell Gray
Project Leader, overall coordination.
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Dr. Simon Greenhill
Associate Investigator, database design
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Dr. Quentin Atkinson
Associate Investigator, data analysis
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Dr. Joseph Bulbulia
Associate Investigator, religious studies consultant
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Prof. Carlos Botero
Associate Investigator, ecological modeling
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Joseph Watts
Project management, database and website design
Joseph is a PhD candidate who has been responsible for overseeing the construction and development of the Pulotu database. He has created the database variables, overseen the cultural research and designed the website appearance and functions.
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Oliver Sheehan
Cultural research and project development
Oliver is a graduate researcher who has developed the variables and content of the database and has been responsible cultural research and reviewing the work of other researchers.
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Stephanie Gomes-Ng
Cultural research, website and database development
Stef is a graduate researcher who has been responsible for constructing the website, developing the database structure as well as researching cultures.
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Dr. Angeline Song
Cultural research
Angeline is a postdoctoral cultural researcher who has especially enjoyed researching cultures with Malay origins as therein lies her own Peranakan (Malay-Chinese) ethnic roots.
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Joanne Ong
Cultural research
Joanne is a postgraduate who has been part of the team responsible for researching cultural profiles.
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Sam Passmore
Cultural research
Sam is a post-graduate who has been part of the team responsible for researching cultural profiles.
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Kirsty Maurits
Cultural research
Kirsty is a graduate who has been part of the team responsible for researching cultural profiles.
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Goldie Hamilton
Cultural research
Goldie is a graduate who has helped to develop the warfare variables and been part of the team responsible for researching cultural profiles.
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Kelsey Buntain
Cultural research
Kelsey is a graduate who has been part of the team responsible for researching cultural profiles.
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Alex Thomson
Cultural research
Alex is a postgraduate researcher who piloted an early version of the database and helped to develop the variables on syncretism.
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Funding and Affiliations +

Funding

Pulotu was constructed thanks to funding from the John Templeton Foundation and the Marsden Grant of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Affiliations

Publications +
How to cite +