Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Society and Economy of Pastoral Nomads

The Society and Economy of Pastoral Nomads

The Society and Economy of Pastoral Nomads : The microliths were used for fishing as well as arrow heads for hunting. These new tools helped in hunting the small game in the forests rather than hunting herds in steppes. Hunting was also becoming more selective. Groups were becoming smaller with small number of families as smaller amounts of game were available. The patterns of movements or habitations were also influenced. They were determined by the availability of plants, animals and environment. A migratory or seasonal way of life with some base camps emerged. By this time many hunting gathering groups had acquired knowledge about their immediate environment. The pattern of growth of vegetation of different types of plants and use of various plants for their survival, knowledge about animals, their life cycle, breeding patterns, habitat and food consumption was also available to the hunter gatherers.


The Society and Economy of Pastoral Nomads The available evidence and data for the earliest period (following Palaeolithic) is very limited. The archaeological evidence for material culture is also fragmentary for the earlier period. Anthropological studies conducted among the pastoral nomadic groups in the modern times and the accounts of observers from sedentary civilisations for first millennium BC throw some light on them. However, more detailed records are available about nomads of Eurasian Steppes for the middle ages. According to Dani and Jean Pierre “Nomadic groups established relationships not only between themselves but also between humans and animals. In this biotic symbiosis they adjusted themselves fairly comfortably to a particular natural surrounding. This particular association of people and animals led to better management and to an understanding of the power that was potential in animals.

The Society and Economy of Pastoral Nomads , In simple terms nomadic pastoralism is characterised by two dominant feature common to almost all such societies: (i) dependence of their economy on breeding of herd animals who provide sustenance to their way of life and shape the society they live in, and (ii) the migratory character of life in contrast to settled way of agriculturists. If we take both these elements separately then we may have pastoral communities or groups who are pastoralists and their subsistence is based on animal breeding but they follow a settled life.

Society and Economy of Pastoral Nomads

The nomadic way of life through history was viewed as barbaric and can be found listed along with natural disasters by settled societies and civilizations. The Society and Economy of Pastoral Nomads,  During middle ages, the Mongol and Huns with their periodic raids through the towns of Asia and Europe destroying all symbols of civilizations reinforced the savage barbarian images of these nomads. The data available on nomads in the period of prehistory and early history is very limited and fragmentary. However, with limited sources the researches by anthropologists archaeologists, pre-historians and scholars working on nomadic groups could somewhat displace the notions of savagery attached to nomads and establish that there was much more to these cultures than merely plundering savagery. In almost all nomadic pastoral communities, the family is the basic unit which consist of a man, wife and their children.

The combination of these families formed smaller groups who moved and lived together. A number of such groups could have descended from the one common ancestor and were considered belonging to the same clan with common lineage. The ownership of animal herds lies undisputedly with the individual families almost in all cases. However, the right on the pastures is not as uniform. In some cases individual families have their identified territories of the common pastures of the community. In some communities the pastures are shared by all the families as a common territory. However the pastures for each community are clearly defined.

The matrimonial relations in these cultures were governed by customary laws in different forms. Monogamy is dominant but polygamy and polyandry is also prevalent in a few communities. Cattle play an important role in their customs and rites. Wearing horns, tails, and skins at times are ways of expressing their identity with cattle. Ritual sacrifice of cattle is also practiced as part of their religious expressions. The meat, milk and dairy products along with vegetables food are their staple diet. The Society and Economy of Pastoral Nomads  : Practice of consuming blood by obtaining it by bleeding the animal was also prevalent in a number of communities.

According to Khazanov “most importantly, nomads could never exist on their own without the outside world and its non-nomadic societies, with their different economic systems.


According to many scholars the earliest civilization of the world i.e. the Sumerian civilization emerged as a result of interaction between pastoral nomadic groups and agriculturists. Once agricultural groups had settled down in villages they depended on pastoral nomadic groups for acquiring stones and metals from places far away. The mobility of the pastoral nomadic groups meant that they were in contact with different communities. These communities might develop new technologies and ideologies. So, the nomadic groups became the agents in the diffusion of this knowledge. The Society and Economy of Pastoral Nomads : The example of Aryans in India and Persia, Hittites in Turkey, Hyksos in Egypt, Minoans and Greeks in Greece are some well known cases of pastoral nomadic communities catalysing the birth of great civilizations.