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 Fifties-style diner with blue booths and chairs and pink walls.
    Design

    Why a ‘Memory Town’ Is Coming to Your Local Strip Mall

    Weeks after opening near San Diego, a model town for treating dementia is set to be replicated around the U.S.

  2. A large adventure playground with towers and slides.
    Design

    A Short Guide to Tulsa’s New $465 Million Park

    If Volcanoville and Charlie’s Water Mountain aren’t enough for you, what about a boating pond and a skate park?

  3. Design

    Debunking the Cul-de-Sac

    The design of America's suburbs has actually made our streets more dangerous

  4. Passengers wait in a German subway station
    Transportation

    The Global Mass Transit Revolution

    A new report confirms that the U.S. lags behind the rest of the world in mass transit.

  5. Transportation

    Why Did America Give Up on Mass Transit? (Don't Blame Cars.)

    Streetcar, bus, and metro systems have been ignoring one lesson for 100 years: Service drives demand.