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Nomads and sedentary: characteristics, differences and examples

Nomads and sedentary are human groups that have different ways of life associated with geographical displacement. Nomads are constantly on the move. Sedentaries, on the other hand, settle permanently in one place.

Nomads or nomads are people who lead a nomadic lifestyle. This implies constant mobilization in search of food sources or favorable climatic conditions for survival.

Sedentary people are people who lead a sedentary life, a way of life that avoids geographical displacement. Sedentary people settle and organize themselves in a certain territory permanently, since it has what is necessary for their subsistence.

The difference between nomads and sedentary is that the former live in a territory temporarily, while the sedentary settle in a place permanently.

nomads sedentary
Who are they Populations or individuals that move continuously from territory. Populations or individuals living in a fixed territory.
origin Africa, 100 thousand years ago. Middle East, 10 thousand years ago.
Type of housing
  • Lightweight, easy to dismantle. Made with branches and animal skins.
  • Robust, made to withstand the weather.
  • Made with mud, branches and stones.
  • hunt
  • fishing
  • Collection of wild fruits, plants and vegetables.
  • Agriculture
  • fishing
  • Animal breeding
Tools Rudimentary stone knives.
  • Knives with sharpened blades made from flint rock.
  • Hammers, axes, spears and other objects made of wood and ivory.
  • The Chichimeca people, in Mexico.
  • Arab Bedouin peoples
  • Some groups of the Roma population.
  • The Sarakatani, in the Balkan Peninsula.
  • The Aztecs, in Mexico.
  • The Wayuu, in Venezuela.
  • The Mapuches, in Chile.
  • The Calxaquis, in Argentina.

What are nomads?

Nomads are people who practice nomadism, which is a way of life that involves continuous territorial movements in search of better subsistence conditions (sources of food, water, fertile land, better climatic conditions, etc.).

Nomadic peoples emerged in Prehistory, about 100 thousand years ago, when human groups began to mobilize from what is now Africa towards the rest of the world.

These displacements gave rise to a slow process of populating the planet that began in what is currently the Middle East, continued in Asia, Europe, America and culminated in Oceania.

Currently, the nomadic population of the planet is estimated at around 30 million people. Here are some nomadic groups around the world:

  • The Chichimeca people, in Mexico.
  • Arab Bedouin peoples.
  • Some groups of the Roma population.
  • The Eskimos, in Greenland.
  • The Ghilji, in Afghanistan.
  • The Nunak, in Colombia.
  • The Sarakatani, in the Balkan Peninsula.

Characteristics of nomads

The nomads were characterized by not having a fixed territory to live in. Their housing and their activities were determined by permanent displacement, as we will see below:

Home of the nomads

yurt, dwelling of Asian nomadic groups
A yurt is a type of dwelling of some Asian nomadic tribes. It is made of wooden slats and fabric

Nomadic peoples were characterized by building dwellings with very vulnerable structures, as they were made from the natural materials available on site, such as branches and animal skins.

Although these were very fragile structures, they were very easy to dismantle when leaving the temporary settlement. The yurt, for example, as seen in the image, is an example of nomadic housing.

Nomadic activities: hunting, fishing and gathering

For a long time it was estimated that nomads subsisted thanks to hunting, but today it is known that most of their diet depended on vegetables and fruits. This is for a practical reason: it is much easier and safer to gather food from the land than to hunt.

Animal protein obtained from hunting and fishing made up only 40% of the nomads’ diet and depended on the species available in the area of ​​temporary settlement.

For the nomads, food had a higher value than tools. It was a resource used to promote reciprocity within the group (sharing food avoided social exclusion) or to socialize with other nomadic peoples.

Tools of the nomads

rudimentary knives, made of stones
Nomads used stones with sharp edges as rudimentary knives.

The tools of the nomads were quite basic, such as stone axes and rudimentary knives. The lack of variety responded to the easy access to the collected resources and because, being peoples in constant displacement, they had to travel with the least amount of cargo possible.

See also Evolution of man

What are sedentary people?

Sedentary peoples practice sedentarism, a way of life in which human groups select a territory to live permanently. This selection depends on certain characteristics, such as the quality of the land, the climatic conditions, the distance from other populations, etc.

The origin of sedentary people goes back to the Neolithic, about 10 thousand years ago, in what is now known as the Middle East. The nomads eventually stopped moving and began to settle permanently in those territories that guaranteed their long-term survival, becoming sedentary.

Today, most of the world’s population is sedentary. The most representative examples of sedentary peoples in the American continent they would be original communities, such as:

  • The Aztecs, in Mexico.
  • The Wayuu, in Venezuela.
  • The Mapuches, in Chile.
  • The Calxaquis, in Argentina.

Characteristics of sedentary people

The fundamental characteristic of sedentary people is the discovery of agriculture and animal husbandry as a means of survival. These activities led to the end of displacement, the construction of permanent homes and the creation of the first human settlements.

Home of the sedentary

palafito, dwelling raised on the water, typical of the any ethnic group, in Venezuela
The palafit is a common type of housing among sedentary ethnic groups that live near bodies of water, such as the Anyu and Wayuú, in Venezuela.

Since sedentary peoples needed to protect themselves from external threats, such as the weather, or predators on a permanent basis, their dwellings had to be much more resistant than when they were nomads. Therefore, they began to incorporate mud and stones into the structures.

Sedentary activities: agriculture and animal breeding

man herding sheep in the mountains
Sheep grazing is common in sedentary villages, as it allows them to obtain food and wool.

The essential activity that differentiates the sedentary from the nomadic life is agriculture. Thanks to this the sedentary people discovered that they could have a fixed source of food without the need to move.

The breeding of animals became an essential activity, since it prevented them from depending on the animals available for hunting; in addition, they protected themselves from the risk of confronting predators.

With these two activities, the diet and living conditions of the sedentary improved greatly, which favored their chances of survival and contributed to the expansion of their way of life.

Sedentary tools

Sedentary people began to specialize in making tools made from wood, ivory and animal horns, such as:

  • hammers
  • spears
  • axes
  • Ropes.
  • Rudimentary household utensils.

The sedentary people also perfected their skills in making stone knives, which were of much sharper blades, made from flint rock, also called flint.

Sedentary people also built wooden thrusters to increase the range of their spears (something like what we know today as a springer, sling or slingshot). They also made needles, with which they possibly sewed animal skins to cover their bodies.

See also:

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