Nature’s open access journal for “scientifically valuable datasets”, Scientific Data, published a fascinating new paper from Yale researchers this month, which maps over 6,000 years of urban development.

Using data from historian Tertius Chandler’s 1970s paper, Four thousand Years of Urban Growth and political scientist George Modelski’s book World Cities -3000 to 2000, published in 1987, Yale University researchers digitised, transcribed, and geocoded thousands of years of urban data, to create a ‘usable’ map.

By sorting the extensive collection of data, the researchers were able to plot the first recorded urban settlement populations between 3700 B.C. and 2000 A.D, making the dataset more usable to “better illustrate how urbanization spreads”.

The first author of the paper, Meredith Reba, said that the map her team of researchers has created will be an essential tool in understanding human interactions with the environment.

“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,” Ms Reba said.

“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.

“The dataset provides the first spatially explicit archive of the location and size of urban populations over the last 6,000 years and can contribute to an improved understanding of contemporary and historical urbanization trends.”

Click here for a summary of the paper.

Click here for the original.

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