A Visual History Of Urbanization, From The World's First City In 3700 BC To The Present

From Sumer to Sacremento, this map shows the full history of urbanization around the world. Watch as world's cities are born one-by-one, beginning with [arguably] the world's first city in 3700 BC and continuing up to the present.

The history of urbanization, 3700 BC - 2000 AD (interactive version)

By 2030, 75 percent of the world's population is expected to be living in cities. Today, about 54 percent of us do. In 1960, only 34 percent of the world lived in cities.

Urbanization didn't begin in the 1960's. But until recently, tracking its history much further back than that was a challenging task. The most comprehensive collection of urban population data available, U.N. World urbanization prospects, goes back only to 1950. But thanks to a study released earlier this month by a Yale-led team of researchers, it is now possible to analyze the history of cities over a much longer time frame.

The researchers compiled the data by digitizing, geocoding, and standardizing information from past research published about historical urban populations. The result is the first clean, accessible dataset of cities, their locations, and their populations over time, going as far back as 3700 B.C.

If you would like to go through the data yourself, you can find the raw data in spreadsheet format in the report.

Or if you just want to explore a bit, here is an interactive map with more information about each of the cities shown in the map above.

  • 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. The size of each dot corresponds to the city's population at that time.
  • Credit to Population Connection / Population Education and their world population history map, one of my favorite data visualizations ever, and the inspiration for this one.

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This post originally appeared on Metrocosm.