The Ethnographic Atlas (Murdock, 1967), an anthropological database, is widely used across the social sciences. The Atlas is a quantified and discretely categorized collection of information gleaned from ethnographies covering more than 1200 pre-industrial societies. While being popular in many fields, it has been subject to skepticism within cultural anthropology. We assess the Atlas’s validity by comparing it with representative data from descendants of the portrayed societies. We document positive associations between the historical measures collected by ethnographers and self-reported data from 790,000 individuals across 43 countries.