by every definition.

Ancient civilisations held same principles as modern cities

Photo Credit: bradleyolin via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: bradleyolin via Compfight cc

Cities are as diverse as they come. Reflecting a society's beliefs and values, each is purposely built to serve the needs of its inhabitants or its ruler. But when we peel back the layers, patterns begin to emerge.

Scoot Ortman, a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder and Luis Betterncourt, who studies complex systems at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, worked together to discover that a theoretical framework of city design that may have been applied throughout human civilisation.

The theory is "urban scaling" and it argues that that when a city is built, it's purpose is not merely to house its population, such a simple approach would result in huge costs when moving through the city. Instead, as a population increases, a city design evolves to magnify opportunities for social interaction, become more efficient and productive in a predicable manner.

While originally theorised based on modern cities, Ortman and Betterncourt's study suggests that despite differences in ideals held by modern and ancient civilisations, there is something fundamental about human interactions and its influence in shaping the living space.

For example, a pattern emerges when we look at the construction of public monuments. Surprisingly, as a city becomes more densely populated,  so does the construction of less-functional buildings such as temples and pyramids.

Such a pattern has been eloquently represented in the following formula.

Y = G N2 / An ~ N2 / N5/6 ~ N7/6
Photo Credit: Vocativ

Photo Credit: Vocativ

How far the theory hold true will require the study to go beyond its current scope of ancient data that consists of the pre-Hispanic Basin of Mexico.

There are also future considerations such as how social media and new technologies will impact the physical need of human interactions and thus its impact on future city designs.

But if such a theory proves to be true, then it will become a gift to humanity, a peak into the future by rediscovering the past, the reason why we study history - to learn from past mistakes and reap the benefits of their lessons.