Among the most significant developments of the ancient world was the rise of cities. Urbanization is not a new phenomenon, and though many of today’s metropolitan areas have populations in the tens of millions, some of the cities of the past were surprisingly large.
From the 19th century, when pioneering archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann found the ruins of Troy in Turkey, to British archaeologist Howard Carter’s discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, the ancient world has become a popular fascination. Thebes, Ur, Babylon, Xi’an, and Samarkand are just some of the legendary names from antiquity that bring out the Indiana Jones in us.
Archaeology has brought the ancients closer to us. It has been quick to embrace technology, such as carbon dating, to detail the stories from antiquity. Because of progress in geophysics, soil chemistry, satellite imaging, three-dimensional mapping skills, drones, software for ground-penetrating radar, and remote sensing, we have a better grasp of the complexity and sophistication of these ancient civilizations.
A recently published study has enabled us to understand the size and scope of the major cities of the ancient world. “Historical Urban Population, 3700 BC – AD 2000” was originally developed by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and is the first spatially explicit global data set containing location and size of urban populations over the last 6,000 years. Using data from the report, 24/7 Wall St. has created a list of the 42 largest cities in ancient times.