From the Cradle of Civilization in ancient Mesopotamia to the modern urban explosion in China, cities are among the most obvious and dramatic evidence of human existence. In a recent paper published in Scientific Data, a team led by Yale University researcher Meredith Reba mapped the emergence of cities between 3,700 BC and 2,000 AD based on when their populations were first recorded in historical accounts.
Taking the data from this study, Max Galka of Metrocosm has produced this fascinating animation showing the history of cities worldwide. "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," Galka told CityLab. "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." The steady flow of time may seem a little slow at first, but stick with it through the early BC years and the shifts in urban development start to get intriguing. And—spoiler alert—buckle up as you approach the 20th century.