PASTORAL NOMADISM

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. By harnessing this power for their own purposes, herders took another step forward towards progressive civilization. The bull or horse was harnessed to the plough and the horse or camel was used for a quicker ride across the grassy steppe land or sandy deserts (History of Humanity, Vol. II, p.10).

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. At the same time there are nomadic groups who are engaged in vocations, like trade, or craft production and lead a migratory life and do not involve themselves with breeding of animals. One more thing to be borne in mind is that within nomadic pastoral groups there are some who also participate in agriculture and other professions side by side with pastoralism. It is, therefore, very important to have both the above listed elements together in the groups to classify them as pastoral nomads.

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