Living in bigger, denser settlements allowed the inhabitants of ancient cities to be more productive, just as is true for modern urbanites, according to a new study by scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder and the Santa Fe Institute.
As modern cities grow, they obey certain rules. As the population increases, for example, 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.
Visitors to the ancient city of Teotihuacan—with its pyramidal structures arranged in careful geometric patterns, its temples, and its massive central thoroughfare, dubbed Street of the Dead—in Mexico may have the sensation they’re gazing at the remains of a society profoundly different from their own.
But new research from anthropologists armed with a bevy of recently derived mathematical equations shows that in some fundamental ways, today’s cities and yesterday’s settlements may be more alike than different.
A new look at the diets of ancient African hominids shows a “game changer” occurred about 3.5 million years ago when some members added grasses or sedges to their menus, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder.
For the past six decades, archaeologists have documented dense populations of ancient Maya in Mexico and Central America—hundreds of people per square kilometer. Corn, beans and squash are well-known Mayan food staples, but they are sensitive to drought and require fertile soils, and thus would be insufficient to feed a large population. So what did the Maya eat?