wrt the infirm cf the case of the Shanidar Neanderthal, although some
people consider this controversial, this appears to be a deliberate
burial of an elderly and infirm individual. Ethnographically some
cultures have left the old to die (e.g. the Nunamiut, the Inuit) but I
suspect that this largely applies to extreme environments such as the
Although there may be more complex sociocultural explanantions for
sedentism, I suspect that population pressure is a primary cause. In the
modern world the surviving hunter gatherers are confined to the most
marginal areas, and even then encroached upon by agriculturalists.
Interestingly, it is said that the San people of the Kalahari have
periodically been "farmers" or at least have been pastoralists, but have
gone back to hunting and gathering. The process of "intensification" by
which there is a continual feedback between population and the need to
produce more food probably has a long history and is, as we know, still
going on today.
Equally, we need not see nomadism and sedentary life as an either or. As
I understand it (I'm not a specialist) a lot of neolithic populations
combined a mixture of hunting and pastoralism or agriculture. Many
recent east African societies retained a nomadic way of life as
pastoralists (and still do) but are increasingly drawn to the fixed
resources of health and education centres. You might argue that some
farmers in marginal areas, even in the UK, practice a form of nomadism,
moving flocks from one area to another. For example, in Wales, the place
name Hafod is very common, signifying a seasonal dwelling used by
shepherds. But now farmers have quad bikes so they can stay at home.
On 15/07/2010 15:44, Jez wrote:
> On 15 Jul 2010, at 13:35, Steven Burch wrote:
>> I cant see it being soley as a means to escape a nomadic lifetsyle.
> There is one aspect of nomadic life which is often ignored, but may
> have been the greatest of the catalysts for change - the valuing of
> the old, and of the infirm in body.
> In a nomadic culture, such people have to be left behind to die. If
> that becomes unacceptable, for any reason (and I can think of many,
> not all of them purely 'moral') then the leaving of greater and
> greater amounts of food and the provision of better quality shelter
> may have been the precursors of settlement.
> Now, such people, maybe now being left along with some 'helpers',
> could form the nucleus of a seasonal camp that becomes an all-year
> habitation. Planting things which provide food becomes sensible,
> keeping animals (not many, as there is not enough food for many)
> becomes thinkable (remember that semi-domesticated animals exist,
> animals which roam freely but are herded by humans, exist) and the
> whole thing starts without a great upheaval. And yes, the diet of
> these people is poorer, but it only has to keep them alive until the
> group returns through the pass with the herds in spring...
> Just a thought.
> SAD is not a modern phenomenon...
> winter-cearig; adj. Sad from age or from the gloom of winter :-- Ic
> heán wód wintercearig sad with the load of years, cf. Gemon he hu hine
> on geóguðe his goldwine wenede to wiste, 288, 22 ; Wand. 35: or
> depressed by gloomy winter, cf. Ic earmcearig íscealdne sǽwinter
> wunade wræccan lástum, 306, 27 ; Scef. 14) ofer waþema gebind. Exon.
> Th. 287, 34; Wand. 24.