Timelapse Animation Lets You See the Rise of Cities Across the Globe, from 3700 BC to 2000 AD

Last year, a Yale-led research project pro­duced an inno­v­a­tive dataset that mapped the his­to­ry of urban set­tle­ments. Cov­er­ing a 6,000 year peri­od, the project traced the loca­tion and size of cities across the world, start­ing in 3700 BC (when the first known urban dwellings emerged in Sumer) and con­tin­u­ing through 2000 AD. Accord­ing to Yale’s Mered­ith Reba, if we under­stand “how cities have grown and changed over time, through­out his­to­ry, it might tell us some­thing use­ful about how they are chang­ing today,” and par­tic­u­lar­ly whether we can find ways to make mod­ern cities sus­tain­able.

The Yale dataset was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Sci­en­tif­ic Data in 2016. And before too long, some enter­pris­ing YouTu­ber brought the data to life. Above, the his­to­ry of urban life unfolds before your eyes. The action starts off slow, but then lat­er kicks into high gear.

You can read more about the map­ping of urban set­tle­ments at this Yale web­site. And see the ani­mat­ed map in a larg­er for­mat here.

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Relat­ed Con­tent

The Rise & Fall of the Romans: Every Year Shown in a Time­lapse Map Ani­ma­tion (753 BC ‑1479 AD)

200,000 Years of Stag­ger­ing Human Pop­u­la­tion Growth Shown in an Ani­mat­ed Map

Buck­min­ster Fuller Cre­ates an Ani­mat­ed Visu­al­iza­tion of Human Pop­u­la­tion Growth from 1000 B.C.E. to 1965


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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.