In Tableau's most recent Iron Viz cycle (March 2017), the focus was laid on a new capability of Tableau 10.2: the ability to connect to shapefiles. The shapefile format is a geospatial vector data format used to describe points, lines and polygons. Basically, it stores stuff you can draw on or as maps. And aptly, Tableau posed the question: "Can you map it?"

Why yes, I thought. However, the question I was asking myself (as with every Iron Viz) was: "What theme to pick?" And after some research, I stumbled upon an interesting data set on the territories of civilizations through human history. In fact, you might remember that I do enjoy vizzing ancient stuff, as I also did for one of the previous Iron Viz contests.

This time, the scope was widened a bit, to include other datasets related to human history and related to the "first" shapefile data. In the end, the viz was built on 3 different data sets:

  • Shapefiles of the territories of human civilizations through time
  • Religion (current spreads and historical facts)
  • Population of earth's most populous cities over the last 65 years (also a shapefile)

Some of the data did require some reworking. For example, the shapefiles of the territories were originally separate files, but had to be combined for use in Tableau. The data preparation was performed using Alteryx, but not much was necessary to get the data in shape for easy analysis in Tableau.

Furthermore, the viz itself was split up into four sections, two of which are based on the first data set. Each section focuses on a different facet of our history, which it has influenced and which shaped the world we live in today. In the end, it's a visual, interactive and educative way of playing with this historical data!

But rather than reading about it, why not experience it? Click on the image below to interact.

Timothy Vermeiren

Timothy Vermeiren

Analytics Domain Lead at Biztory, and DataDev Ambassador. Tableau Iron Viz 2018 Global Champion, Tableau Ambassador 2020-2021, Tableau Certified Consultant & Architect. He runs in his spare time & plays various musical instruments.

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