What Ancient Civilization Had the Most Population?

When it comes to ancient civilizations, one of the most common questions that people ask is which civilization had the most population. While it’s difficult to determine exact numbers for populations that lived thousands of years ago, historians and archaeologists have been able to make educated estimates based on various factors. Here we will explore some of the most populated ancient civilizations and how they reached such large numbers.

Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley Civilization, also known as the Harappan Civilization, flourished in what is now modern-day Pakistan and India from around 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE. It was one of the earliest urban civilizations and is estimated to have had a population of around five million people at its peak.

The cities of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa were two of the largest cities in the world at that time, with populations estimated at around 40,000 each. One reason for their high population density was their advanced water management system, which allowed for efficient irrigation and sanitation.

Chinese Civilization

The first Chinese dynasty, the Xia Dynasty, emerged around 2100 BCE and was followed by several other dynasties such as the Shang Dynasty and Zhou Dynasty. These dynasties are estimated to have had a combined population of over 50 million people during their reigns. The Chinese civilization’s ability to feed its large population was due in part to their development of various agricultural technologies such as irrigation systems and plows.

Roman Empire

The Roman Empire was one of the largest empires in history, stretching from modern-day Portugal all the way to Syria at its peak in AD 117. It is estimated that during this time period, there were between 50-90 million people living within the empire’s borders.

Rome itself had a population estimated at over one million people at its height, making it one of the largest cities in the world at that time. The empire’s strong military and extensive road network allowed for efficient communication and commerce, which helped support its large population.

Mayan Civilization

The Mayan civilization was centered in what is now modern-day Mexico and Central America from around 2000 BCE to 1500 CE. It is estimated that at its peak, the Maya had a population of over two million people.

The cities of Tikal and Calakmul were two of the largest cities in the world during this time period, with populations estimated at over 50,000 each. The Maya were skilled farmers and developed advanced agricultural techniques such as terracing and crop rotation, which allowed them to support their growing population.

Egyptian Civilization

The ancient Egyptian civilization emerged around 3100 BCE and lasted until the Roman conquest in 30 BCE. During this time period, Egypt’s population is estimated to have reached around seven million people.

The Nile River played a crucial role in their ability to sustain such a large population as it provided water for irrigation and transportation. The city of Memphis was one of the largest cities in the world at that time, with a population estimated at over 30,000.


While it’s difficult to determine exact numbers for ancient populations, it’s clear that several civilizations throughout history were able to support large populations due to their advanced technologies and infrastructure. The Indus Valley Civilization, Chinese Civilization, Roman Empire, Mayan Civilization, and Egyptian Civilization are just a few examples of ancient societies that were able to thrive with millions of people living within their borders.