Skip to main content

History fans will love this map showing the birth of cities across nearly 6,000 years

The History of Urbanization, 3700 BC - 2000 AD
In 2016, some 54 percent of the world’s population lives in cities, with that figure expected to rise to 75 percent by 2030.

Curious about how urbanization has developed over thousands of years and how cities have affected local and regional environments, a team of Yale University researchers recently created a comprehensive dataset of urban settlements from 3700 BC to the present day by digitizing, transcribing, and geocoding historical research linked to urban populations around the world.

Using the researchers’ publicly available data, New York-based entrepreneur Max Galka has just created a fascinating digital map showing where and when population clusters have emerged over the last 5,700 years.

We’ve embedded a video of Galka’s map above, though for a more interactive experience, check out the Mapbox version on his website which allows you to drag a slider back and forth to see more clearly the trends and speed of urbanization over countless generations. Push it to around 1900 for a real surprise.

Galka notes, “For each city, the map shows the date of the earliest recorded population figure, which is not necessarily the date when the city was founded.” He adds that the size of each dot corresponds to its population at that time, while the colors redden over time to indicate when the urban centers emerged.

Speaking about his map to CityLab, self-confessed history buff Galka said the dataset caught his attention because it went back so far. “This is the first one I’ve seen that covers six millennia … I thought it would be interesting to visualize the data and see if it offers some perspective.”

He added, “What I found most surprising was how early some of the Mesoamerican cities formed, several hundred years before the first cities in Europe.”

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
This AI cloned my voice using just three minutes of audio
acapela group voice cloning ad

There's a scene in Mission Impossible 3 that you might recall. In it, our hero Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) tackles the movie's villain, holds him at gunpoint, and forces him to read a bizarre series of sentences aloud.

"The pleasure of Busby's company is what I most enjoy," he reluctantly reads. "He put a tack on Miss Yancy's chair, and she called him a horrible boy. At the end of the month, he was flinging two kittens across the width of the room ..."

Read more
Digital Trends’ Top Tech of CES 2023 Awards
Best of CES 2023 Awards Our Top Tech from the Show Feature

Let there be no doubt: CES isn’t just alive in 2023; it’s thriving. Take one glance at the taxi gridlock outside the Las Vegas Convention Center and it’s evident that two quiet COVID years didn’t kill the world’s desire for an overcrowded in-person tech extravaganza -- they just built up a ravenous demand.

From VR to AI, eVTOLs and QD-OLED, the acronyms were flying and fresh technologies populated every corner of the show floor, and even the parking lot. So naturally, we poked, prodded, and tried on everything we could. They weren’t all revolutionary. But they didn’t have to be. We’ve watched enough waves of “game-changing” technologies that never quite arrive to know that sometimes it’s the little tweaks that really count.

Read more
Digital Trends’ Tech For Change CES 2023 Awards
Digital Trends CES 2023 Tech For Change Award Winners Feature

CES is more than just a neon-drenched show-and-tell session for the world’s biggest tech manufacturers. More and more, it’s also a place where companies showcase innovations that could truly make the world a better place — and at CES 2023, this type of tech was on full display. We saw everything from accessibility-minded PS5 controllers to pedal-powered smart desks. But of all the amazing innovations on display this year, these three impressed us the most:

Samsung's Relumino Mode
Across the globe, roughly 300 million people suffer from moderate to severe vision loss, and generally speaking, most TVs don’t take that into account. So in an effort to make television more accessible and enjoyable for those millions of people suffering from impaired vision, Samsung is adding a new picture mode to many of its new TVs.
[CES 2023] Relumino Mode: Innovation for every need | Samsung
Relumino Mode, as it’s called, works by adding a bunch of different visual filters to the picture simultaneously. Outlines of people and objects on screen are highlighted, the contrast and brightness of the overall picture are cranked up, and extra sharpness is applied to everything. The resulting video would likely look strange to people with normal vision, but for folks with low vision, it should look clearer and closer to "normal" than it otherwise would.
Excitingly, since Relumino Mode is ultimately just a clever software trick, this technology could theoretically be pushed out via a software update and installed on millions of existing Samsung TVs -- not just new and recently purchased ones.

Read more