About Human Relations Area Files

You can learn more about our organization at About HRAF. Additional information about important dates and events in HRAF’s history can be found on our timeline.

HRAF Timeline


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To advance a mission to promote understanding of cultural diversity and commonality in the past and present, HRAF relies largely on dues paid by member institutions (primarily universities and colleges). These dues directly support the production of the databases eHRAF World Cultures and eHRAF Archaeology as well as development of educational materials and member support services.

Occasionally, HRAF receives grant support for database development, training scholars in cross-cultural methods, or for basic research. Currently the National Science Foundation (NSF) is supporting the development of enhanced data services for eHRAF World Cultures (available beginning in 2023) as well as Summer Institutes (2021-2023) to train faculty, researchers, and advanced graduate students in cross-cultural anthropological methods. The HRAF Board of Directors, made up of representatives from sponsoring member institutions, has authorized HRAF to apply for basic research grants that are consistent with HRAF’s mission and that are fully transparent to the scholarly community.

Our grant-supported research over the last seven years has broadly focused on climate-related hazards and how they have impacted and transformed culture in prehistory and in the recent past. The aim of this research is to derive understanding of past human responses to climate change to help understand potential resilience to climate change in the future. Some research findings are illustrated in this post. For a full list of publications, click here.

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These clarifications will help you when referring to HRAF and eHRAF.

  • Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) is the name of our non-profit organization at Yale University.
  • eHRAF World Cultures is the name of HRAF’s online ethnographic database.
  • eHRAF Archaeology is the name of HRAF’s online archaeological database
  • HRAF Collection of Ethnography refers to the paper and fiche collections. (Note that many people have referred to this collection as the “HRAF files” for short, but we think the full name is clearer, especially since we now have an archaeological database.)

In short, HRAF refers to our organization as a whole, while eHRAF refers to our searchable online databases for cross-cultural research.

Notes on access

The HRAF homepage (hraf.yale.edu), which contains the eHRAF Highlights blog, teaching resources, research materials, user guides and other information, is freely available to all visitors. The eHRAF World Cultures and eHRAF Archaeology databases are only accessible via member institutions or through paid subscription (free trials are available).


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