Max Galka at Metrocosm has taken the most comprehensive dataset on cities and made it come alive in a new video.

Last week, I wrote about new research spearheaded by Yale University that, for the first time ever, mapped urban settlements from 3700 B.C. to 2000 A.D. Now, Max Galka at Metrocosm has created a fun video using that digitized and geocoded dataset.

In the Yale-led paper, published in Scientific Data, the authors wrote about the significance of their work:

Whether it is for timely response to catastrophes, the delivery of disaster relief, assessing human impacts on the environment, or estimating populations vulnerable to hazards, it is essential to know where people and cities are geographically distributed. Additionally, the ability to geolocate the size and location of human populations over time helps us understand the evolving characteristics of the human species, especially human interactions with the environment.

Galka’s visualization, which is inspired by this world population history map by Population Connection, makes the rise and spread of cities over time abundantly clear.

In the video, as a timeline glides across 6,000 years, cities pop up on Galka’s world map at the points when their populations were first documented in historical and archeological records. (This is not necessarily the same year in which these cities were “born.”) The later a city was written into history, the warmer its color on Galka’s map. At the bottom of the map, Galka also includes helpful context about that point in history.

Galka tells CityLab via email about why he created this data viz, and what he found interesting about it:

Most datasets available go back only a few years or decades at most. This is the first one I've seen that covers 6 millennia. I'm a big fan of history, so after reading the study, I thought it would be interesting to visualize the data and see if it offers some perspective… . What I found most surprising was how early some of the MesoAmerican cities formed, several hundred years before the first cities in Europe.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A data visualization shows 200 years of immigration to the U.S. represented as a thickening tree trunk.
    Life

    A New Way of Seeing 200 Years of American Immigration

    To depict how waves of immigrants shaped the United States, a team of designers looked to nature as a model.

  2. A photo of Andrew Field, the owner of Rockaway Taco, looking out from his store in the Rockaway Beach neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York.
    Life

    Tacos and Transit: Rate Your City

    From taco-rich San Diego to the tortilla wastelands of Boston, we asked you to grade U.S. cities on two critical metrics: Mexican food and public transportation.

  3. Apple's planned new campus in Austin, Texas.
    Life

    Why Apple Bet on Austin’s Suburbs for Its Next Big Expansion

    By adding thousands more jobs outside the Texas capital, Apple has followed a tech expansion playbook that may just exacerbate economic inequality.

  4. A kids play space in Tirana's Grand Park.
    Equity

    Rebuilding a City from the Eye of a Child

    The ambitious mayor of Tirana, Albania, is selling a wary constituency on economic transformation by putting kids at the forefront of his agenda.

  5. Young students walking towards a  modern wood building surrounded by snow and trees
    Environment

    Norway’s Energy-Positive Building Spree Is Here

    Oslo’s Powerhouse collective wants buildings that make better cities in the face of climate change.