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Nomadism

Nomadic Society And Culture, Relations With Sedentarists, State And Empire Building, Bibliography

While numerous types of migrating peoples can be referred to as nomads, this entry focuses on pastoral nomadism, defined as human cultures that depend solely or primarily on herds of domesticated animals. People in these cultures as a result are required to relocate their homes to new pastures on a regular basis in order to sustain these herds—what anthropologists call transhumance. Such nomads are historically represented in three significant regions, all of which are characterized by sufficient grass for animals but insufficient rain and soil quality for sustained agriculture. These regions are Sudanic and East Africa, where herds consisted primarily of cattle and camels; Arabia, southwest Asia, and the Iranian plateau, with herds of camels, sheep, and goats; and the vast steppe region of Central Eurasia, famous for herds of horses.

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