A new study published in the journal Science creates a fascinating series of depictions of the evolution of culture by tracing the births and deaths of key historic figures. As described in the article: "We have reconstructed aggregate intellectual mobility over two millennia through the birth and death locations of more than 150,000 notable individuals." The basic rationale behind the study is by collecting a large volume of data on where famous people were born and where they died, one can use this information as a kind of proxy for cultural centers and their evolution over time.
The original article has a number of compelling graphics, but this video provides the best explanation of the authors' work and findings.
A summary article, An Infographic That Maps 2600 Years of Cultural History in 5 Minutes, can be found on wired.com.