According to a new research, ancient cities with bigger and denser settlements allowed their inhabitants to become more productive, just like modern cities.
When modern cities grow, they follow certain rules. As the population increases the settled area becomes denser instead of sprawling outward. This allows people to live closer together, use infrastructure more intensively, interact more frequently, and as a result, produce more per person.
In modern cities, efficiencies and productivity grow with population. The population, for example, will always outpace the development of infrastructure. The availability of goods and services outpace the population. In other words demand never exceeds supply. This phenomenon is called ‘urban scaling’, that has proved to be mathematically predictable.
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder and the Santa Fe Institute found that the same was true for ancient cities.
For their study, the researchers analyzed archeological data from the Basin of Mexico (now Mexico City). They analyzed the dimensions of the structures to estimate household productivity, rates of the monuments’ construction, and also the ancient settlements’ populations and densities.
They found that those ancient settlements that were more populous tended to be more productive. The researchers likewise found that the rate at which this productivity increased was the same as in present-day cities.
Scott Ortman, anthropologist and a faculty member at the Anthropology Department, University of Colorado, Boulder, and the lead author of the study, said, “It was amazing and unbelievable. We’ve been 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. What we found here is that the fundamental drivers of robust socioeconomic patterns in modern cities precede all that.”
The researchers believe that the cities were inventions, which have been designed to sustain the social interaction and this would be necessary in ancient times as well as modern times. The researchers also discovered that domestic houses and public monuments were also organized in ways similar to modern times. The research states that the concepts which human apply in development of societies seem to be universal.