Monday, January 23, 2017

An open dataset with 6,000 years of global urbanization

Patrick Gerland points to a new paper/open dataset that provides the first spatially explicit archive of the location and size of urban population settlements over the last 6,000 years. We have previously posted in this blog about the fantastic work of Karen Seto and her group at Yale at the Seto lab on Urbanization and Global Change (here and here). This one adds up to a great and continuous effort on improving spatially explicit models of population growth and urbanization, with important contributions to historical and prospective research.

Reba, M., Reitsma, F., & Seto, K. C. (2016). Spatializing 6,000 years of global urbanization from 3700 BC to AD 2000. Scientific data, 3.

How were cities distributed globally in the past? How many people lived in these cities? How did cities influence their local and regional environments? In order to understand the current era of urbanization, we must understand long-term historical urbanization trends and patterns. However, to date there is no comprehensive record of spatially explicit, historic, city-level population data at the global scale. Here, we developed the first spatially explicit dataset of urban settlements from 3700 BC to AD 2000, by digitizing, transcribing, and geocoding historical, archaeological, and census-based urban population data previously published in tabular form by Chandler and Modelski. The dataset creation process also required data cleaning and harmonization procedures to make the data internally consistent. Additionally, we created a reliability ranking for each geocoded location to assess the geographic uncertainty of each data point. The dataset provides the first spatially explicit archive of the location and size of urban populations over the last 6,000 years and can contribute to an improved understanding of contemporary and historical urbanization trends.

credit: Reba, Reitsma and Seto