I'd like to start this by saying I'm not a big fan of fiats from on-high. In general, I think the best way to resolve differences of opinion on SE sites is always going to be via votes on questions.

That being said, I'm afraid the issue of exactly what disciplines are considered on-topic on this stack is so fundamental that we simply cannot leave it up in the air. It causes confusion in new posters, and repetitive comment discussions and close/open fights. For instance, on this recent question, where a comment asking about how the user's question could be improved led to yet another rehash of this meta discussion in the comments (and a very confused user). The question was subsequently closed (likely by anti-prehistory people), and then reopened (likely by pro-prehistory people).

I believe we have come to the point where we need to make it clear, preferably on our help center topicality page, whether questions that necessarily must rely on non-written sources like DNA, linguistics, and oral history, are on-topic. The current situation of confusion is not good for the stack.

So what I'd like to do here is entertain ideas for the form of the modifications to our help center page. If you'd prefer to argue prehistory pro or con, that might be better carried out on the existing meta discussion page. I'd point out the current vote tally there is 5-1 pro-prehistory. However, that's literally 5 votes to 1. It really could use more votes.

1 Answer 1


I'm going to propose a help center modification based on the pro-prehistory position.

What I'm proposing would be to add the following entry near the end of our "What topics can I ask about here?" list:

  • Human Prehistory

We would also add the following entry near the end of our "It is not about" list:

  • General (non-human) Prehistory

So it would read (changes in italics):

History Stack Exchange is for historians and history buffs. If you have a question about:

  • Historical events
  • Cultures and historical practices
  • Famous people
  • Ancient Languages
  • Human Prehistory
  • Factual current political history questions
  • Historiography

Then you are in the right place.

It is not about:

  • Genealogy
  • Asking for reference material
  • Questions answered by a simple Google search or to be found in a Wikipedia page
  • Predicting the future based on historical trends
  • Mythology
  • General (non-human) Prehistory
  • Conspiracy Theories or Pseudo-science

This doesn't directly say that DNA, Archeology, Anthropology, Linguistics, oral history, etc. are valid sources for answers (and thus questions). I do consider that a drawback. However, it does imply it, and it fits well within the existing framework of the page.

I'd like to add that this is about topicality, not votes. Users may still be of the opinion that questions that can be answered purely through written record analysis are inherently superior, and feel free to up or down vote accordingly.

  • 1
    You do realize that opens up this stack to answering questions such as how microbes developed from single-celled organisms, and were there humans on gaia? (assuming they are written in a way as to be on-topic for all other things (non-source requests, etc.)
    – CGCampbell
    Oct 26, 2015 at 13:47
  • 2
    @CGCampbell I'm assuming "Human Prehistory" means humans have to be directly involved somehow, so the first would be OT. Is there some way we can make that clearer?
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Oct 26, 2015 at 13:49
  • Again, I think in practice this is mostly just describing what been what has been happening on this stack. Just without the open/close vote fights.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Oct 26, 2015 at 14:15
  • I have up-voted this, I believe we need to expand our horizons, rather than contract them down beyond all usefulness.
    – CGCampbell
    Oct 26, 2015 at 14:18
  • 1
    @CGCampbell - On clarity though, do you think this is sufficient? We could perhaps add a "Non-human Prehistory" bullet to the "Its NOT about" list or something, if that would help.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Oct 26, 2015 at 14:21
  • I've been mulling it about and perhaps that would be best. Non-written History of Humankind is well...
    – CGCampbell
    Oct 26, 2015 at 14:24
  • 1
    @CGCampbell - Added. Looking at it, I think this is actually the better feature of this proposal. I don't believe we've ever had anything explicitly explaining that any kind of prehistory is out of bounds, and in a world where people talk about the History of the Earth, that's a problem.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Oct 26, 2015 at 14:48

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