Modern vs. Ancient Cities: Urban Scaling evident regardless of era

Modern cities and ancient cities likely shared more in common than what researchers had previously thought. As it turns out, researchers have discovered that the same principles have been applied to ancient cities, as they are today – in modern cities. Interestingly though, the reason for it is out of pure function and human nature. The main thought process behind the how and why cities grow the same way – and ultimately are set up in the same fashion is due to the fact that the population often outpaces the development.

Thus, development becomes a reactive action – and in doing so, certain actions, or traits are more evident because from a problem solving perspective – it’s the best method to reach a solution. Researchers at the Santa Fe Institute as well as the University of Colorado Boulder found that the same mathematical trends that exist within the creation of large cities today – or “urban scaling” as it’s referred to within city architecture – existed historically within the development of cities throughout history.


The researchers evaluated archaeological data from Mexico City, which is known as the Basin of Mexico in the archeology community. They then compared that to a rash of other cities and developments throughout history at varying times and what they found was that there was a consistency throughout the entire research. It’s interesting because it defies what conventional wisdom would have you believe – given what people think about cities today.

Scott Ortman of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Anthropology department noted that the findings were “shocking and unbelievable.” He went on to point out that “We were raised on a steady diet telling us that, thanks to capitalism, industrialization, and democracy, the modern world is radically different from worlds of the past.” The findings ultimately show that there are significant and consistent building blocks that go into every city, regardless of the timeframe, or era that it is ultimately developed in. Typically, they follow similar speeds, similar paths, and ultimately get to the same place when all is said and done – depending on the resources available.


About the author

Nitin Agarwal

Nitin has a background in Electrical Engineering and is passionate about the Internet of Things. He covers how connected devices like smart homes, wearables, and industrial IoT are changing our daily lives. Nitin is also a DIY enthusiast and loves to build IoT gadgets.