New York: Just like modern cities, the bigger ancient settlements were more productive than their smaller counterparts, shows a new research.
The findings suggest that despite notable differences in appearance and governance, ancient human settlements functioned in the same way as modern cities do.
"It was shocking and unbelievable," said Scott Ortman from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Previous research had shown that as modern cities grow in population, so do their efficiency and productivity.
In the current study, the researchers investigated if this has always been so.
To test their ideas, the team examined archaeological data from the Basin of Mexico (what is now Mexico City and nearby regions).
In the 1960s - before Mexico City's population exploded - surveyors examined all its ancient settlements, spanning 2,000 years and four cultural eras in pre-contact Mesoamerica.
Using this data, the research team analysed the dimensions of hundreds of ancient temples and thousands of ancient houses to estimate populations and densities, size and construction rates of monuments and buildings, and intensity of site use.
Their results indicated that the bigger the ancient settlement, the more productive it was.
"We were raised on a steady diet telling us that, thanks to capitalism, industrialisation, and democracy, the modern world is radically different from worlds of the past. What we found here is that the fundamental drivers of robust socio-economic patterns in modern cities precede all that," Ortman noted.
The results suggest that the "general ingredients of productivity and population density in human societies run much deeper and have everything to do with the challenges and opportunities of organising human social networks," noted Luis Bettencourt from the Santa Fe Institute in the US.
The findings appeared in the journal Science Advances.