Gabriel Garcia for the Santa Fe Institute

One of SFI’s ongoing research pursuits is a quantitative theory of urban scaling throughout history. This week, a diverse set of social and natural scientists, archaeologists, and historians are at SFI to share data and techniques for comparing ancient and pre-modern cities. 

Data and results from the current meeting will contribute to the development of a theory of historical human settlements that might also be used to identify challenges to existing models of (modern) urbanization.   

The current collaboration follows a successful first meeting in June 2014, when the researchers initiated the collection and analysis of historical urban settlement data as part of an institutional collaboration between SFI, Arizona State University, and the University of Colorado Boulder. 

The research agenda for the current meeting focuses on presentation and analysis of new data; discussing the conceptual and theoretical aspects of pre-modern urban scaling; and planning for a series of large-scale data gathering exercises from pre-modern societies such as the Roman Empire and the Classic Maya cities of Central America.

The researchers expect “that a new empirical and theoretical synthesis will emerge from this work that will help us understand the formation and evolution of human (settled) societies throughout history.”

Read the abstract and event details  for the working group (June 10-June 12, 2015)

Read researcher Scott Ortman's article about early inspiration for the research in the Santa Fe New Mexican (March 3, 2014)

Read SFI's recently published research on human settlements (February 16, 2014)