We may earn a commission from links on this page.

If the goal of studying history is to apply past knowledge to modern problems, there’s (at least) one problem: the record of human civilization is a disorganized mess.

Some scientists are trying to aggregate and sort through the jumble of information. Researchers at Yale University have digitized 6,000 years of city records. The result offers a fascinating look at the growth of cities and urban areas over the years, and offers context to present-day urbanization. And if we can learn more about the world’s cities—where they came from and how they have changed—we might uncover some solutions to the issues that affect them.