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Ancient World Civilizations

Even though there are notable differences in governance and appearance, the settlements of ancient humans function in many of the same ways as the modern cities do. New findings from the University of Colorado and Santa Fe Institute have revealed these similarities.

Efficiencies and Productivity


The research has revealed that as popular cities flourish, so does their productivity and efficiency. In an urban infrastructure, the population outpaces the cities development. A good example is when the good production and services begins to outpace the population. These patterns reveal a surprising level of predictability and mathematical regularity. This phenomenon is referred to as urban scaling.

Has This Pattern Always Been True?


There are trends that have occurred that are not particular just to modern times. SFI Professor Luis Bettencourt researched urban dynamics. He is the lead investigator for the Scaling and Sustainability research program in SFI Cities. At a talk in 2013 about urban scaling theories, he met up with Scott Ortman a professor from CU Boulder. The discussion they held inspired a research project about the effects that the size of a city has had on history.

In order to test their theories, they compiled and examined archaeological data delivered from the Mexico Basin that is also known as Mexico City. Before the population began to explode, the surveyors examined all of their ancient settlements. This spans 2000 years through four cultural eras in Mesoamerica pre-contact.

Gathering Results


This data compiled by the research team analyzed ancient temples and houses so they could properly estimate densities and populations. It also considers the construction rates and sizes of buildings and monuments and the intensity in which they were used.

According to the results revealed, the larger the ancient settlement was, the more productivity there was.

People have believed for years that because of democracy, industrialization, and capitalism, the worlds of the past were radically different from the modern world as we know it today. In actuality that really isn’t true. The socioeconomic patterns of the modern civilations, were the fundamental drivers is what was found to precede that.

The results also suggest that the main ingredients of productivity and density in the population of human societies goes much deeper and revolves around the challenges and opportunities for organization of the human social network. Even though the researchers were happy to receive these results, it was just one step in the process. Continued studies will move forward to study the factors that can lead an urban system to collapse, grown, and emerge.