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The Origin of Nomadism | Evolving Nomads Through Time

Throughout history, humans have always been in motion. We have always been a migratory species. Our ancestors have always moved. There has never been any trace of settlement in human life. No permanent texture … we are always on a go. None of us is the native of our homes. In an article titled ‘In the 21stcentury, we are all migrants’, Mohsin Hamid explains more.[1]


The Origin of Nomadism

One of the main questions raised about nomads and nomadic lifestyle is about the origin of nomadism. What were the leading causes of the creation of such a unique lifestyle? Before talking about the history and root causes of nomadism, some points need to be taken into consideration. First, ‘Nomadism’ is an old way of life, but it is not too old, and it goes back to 7000 or 8000 years ago. Second, one of the requirements of such lifestyle was domestication of the wild animals of the area, and not all primitive people around the world tamed their animals. And, according to archaeologists, just a few groups have tried it. So, not all countries have nomads & nomadic lifestyle. Read the article to know more about the nomads of the world. Third, there is a difference between the ancient nomadism and what we have today.

Early History

The first generation of primitive people did not make any city or house for a long time, and they made use of shades under trees or tents for a living. Little by little, some made cottages and houses (primitive ones), but the rest chose to stay in nature[2]. Till 12000 years ago, humans were living through hunting and gathering fruits and seeds. In this era, they used to live in small groups consisting of several families, and after they hunted in an area, they’d migrated to another area. In this era, it was not possible for primitive humans to live together in an area for a long time.

After about a hundred thousand years, around 12000 years ago, Neolithic Era began. The first development of farming and domestication of animals appeared in this era. These developments resulted in the establishment of nomadism, villages, and cities. Before this era, people had no active roles in their food production, and they used whatever they were provided by nature. 


After about a hundred thousand years, around 12000 years ago, Neolithic Era began. The first development of farming and domestication of animals appeared in this era. These developments resulted in the establishment of nomadism, villages, and cities. Before this era, people had no active roles in their food production, and they used whatever they could find in nature

The Start of Nomadism

Due to many reasons, such as population growth, climate changes, hunting, etc. some big changes have happened in the ecological relations among humans, plants and animals. The number of animals, such as deer and mammoth decreased considerably, and then they went extinct. Before their extinction, hunters used to hunt them and by doing this, they had access to a large amount of meat. These animals could be hunted easily due to their body size. Later, after the extinction of such animals, the hunters had to hunt smaller animals such as ewes, rabbits, goats and foxes, which were difficult to be hunted. Therefore, the hunters made some big changes in their lifestyles. They settled down and embarked on planting wheat and barley, and domestication of goats and ewes. This is when people began to live in villages around 9000 years ago in Iran.

According to many scientists, nomadism in Iran is an offshoot of this era, about 8000 years ago, but it does not mean that all nomads around the world have the same ancient history. Nomads of Saudi Arabia go back to 1200 years ago. So, the dates and causes of the rise of nomadism vary country to country. Read the article to know more about Iran nomads.

The Motives behind Nomadism

The motives are different among different groups. In some areas, it is the result of hunting. In Southwest of Asia, the Middle East and north of Africa it is mostly affected by farming. Mostly in arid areas, when humans did not have easy access to cultivable lands, they embarked on animal husbandry. So they made use of the lands as pastures and grasslands. Little by little, the number of their flock increased, and they opted to be shepherds rather than farmers, nomadic rather than settled; and finally, they began Nomadism. But it does not mean that Nomads became self-sufficient, and they have always needed farming one way or another.

In case the number of their flock decreased or they lost the animals, they chose to settle down again to farm.

An Example of the Remnant of an Ancient Nomad in Iran

Based on the researches in the southwest of Iran, they have estimated that most probably Nomadism began in Iran around 8000 years ago. In 1974, a group of researchers was working on an ancient hill in Andimeshk; they came across an ancient camp used by the Nomads around 8000 years ago. The camp was located about 100 m away from the hill. Finding the camp proved the fact that 8000 years ago when humans were raising goats, they used to have a temporary stay in this area. So, it shows that the Nomads left the farming villages and start nomadism longer before what archaeologists had estimated. Moreover, finding no farming tools such as sickle or grindstone confirms the theory more than the Nomads used to move in Zagros and used the oaks.  

[1]https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2019/08/we-all-are-migrants-in-the-21st-century/

[2]Ali-Ibn Masu’ di

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