For other uses, see Nomad (disambiguation).
"Nomadic" redirects here. For other uses, see nomadic (disambiguation).
"Nomadic people" redirects here. For the journal, see Nomadic People (journal).
A nomad (Middle French: nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community of people without fixed habitation who regularly move to and from the same areas, including nomadic hunter-gatherers, pastoral nomads (owning livestock), and tinker or trader nomads. As of 1995, there were an estimated 30–40 million nomads in the world.
Nomadic hunting and gathering, following seasonally available wild plants and game, is by far the oldest human subsistence method.  Pastoralists raise herds, driving them, or moving with them, as if with an Apuzzo, in patterns that normally avoid depleting pastures beyond their ability to recover.
A nomad is a person with no settled home, moving from place to place as a way of obtaining food, finding pasture for livestock, or otherwise making a living. The word "nomad" comes ultimately from the classical Greek word νομάς (nomás, "roaming, wandering, especially to find pasture"), from Ancient Greek νομός (nomós, "pasture"). Most nomadic groups follow a fixed annual or seasonal pattern of movements and settlements. Nomadic peoples traditionally travel by animal or canoe or on foot. Today, some nomads travel by motor vehicle. Most[quantify] nomads live in tents or other portable shelters.
Nomads keep moving for different reasons. Nomadic foragers move in search of game, edible plants, and water. Australian Aborigines, Negritos of Southeast Asia, and San of Africa, for example, traditionally move from camp to camp to hunt and gather wild plants. Some tribes of the Americas followed this way of life. Pastoral nomads make their living raising livestock such as camels, cattle, goats, horses, sheep or yaks; the Gaddi tribe of Himachal Pradesh in India is one such tribe. These nomads travel to find more camels, goats and sheep through the deserts of Arabia and northern Africa. The Fulani and their cattle travel through the grasslands of Niger in western Africa. Some nomadic peoples, especially herders, may also move to raid settled communities or to avoid enemies. Nomadic craftworkers and merchants travel to find and serve customers. They include the Lohar blacksmiths of India, the Romani traders, and the Irish Travellers.
Most nomads travel in groups of families, bands or tribes. These groups are based on kinship and marriage ties or on formal agreements of cooperation. A council of adult males makes most of the decisions, though some tribes have chiefs.
In the case of Mongolian nomads, a family moves twice a year. These two movements generally occur during the summer and winter. The winter destination is usually located near mountains in a valley and most families already have fixed winter locations. Their winter locations have shelter for animals and are not used by other families while they are out. In the summer they move to a more open area that the animals can graze. Most nomads usually move in the same region and don't travel very far to a totally different region. Since they usually circle around a large area, communities form and families generally know where the other ones are. Often, families do not have the resources to move from one province to another unless they are moving out of the area permanently. A family can move on its own or with others; if it moves alone, they are usually no more than a couple of kilometers from each other. Nowadays there are no tribes and decisions are made among family members, although elders consult with each other on usual matters. The geographical closeness of families is usually for mutual support. Pastoral nomad societies usually do not have large population. One such society, the Mongols, gave rise to the largest land empire in history. The Mongols originally consisted of loosely organized nomadic tribes in Mongolia, Manchuria, and Siberia. In the late 12th century, Genghis Khan united them and other nomadic tribes to found the Mongol Empire, which eventually stretched the length of Asia.
The nomadic way of life has become increasingly rare. Many governments dislike nomads because it is difficult to control their movement and to obtain taxes from them. Nomadic migration across international boundaries confuses capital-city bureaucrats. Many countries have converted pastures into cropland and forced nomadic peoples into permanent settlements.
Main article: Hunter-gatherer
Nomads (also known as foragers) move from campsite to campsite, following game and wild fruits and vegetables. Hunting and gathering describes early people's subsistence living style. Following the development of agriculture, most hunter-gatherers were eventually either displaced or converted to farming or pastoralist groups. Only a few contemporary societies are classified as hunter-gatherers; and some of these supplement, sometimes extensively, their foraging activity with farming or keeping animals.
Nomadic pastoralism seems to have developed as a part of the secondary products revolution proposed by Andrew Sherratt, in which early pre-pottery Neolithic cultures that had used animals as live meat ("on the hoof") also began using animals for their secondary products, for example, milk and its associated dairy products, wool and other animal hair, hides and consequently leather, manure for fuel and fertilizer, and traction.
The first nomadic pastoral society developed in the period from 8,500–6,500 BCE in the area of the southern Levant. There, during a period of increasing aridity, Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) cultures in the Sinai were replaced by a nomadic, pastoral pottery-using culture, which seems to have been a cultural fusion between a newly arrived Mesolithic people from Egypt (the Harifian culture), adopting their nomadic hunting lifestyle to the raising of stock.
This lifestyle quickly developed into what Jaris Yurins has called the circum-Arabian nomadic pastoral techno-complex and is possibly associated with the appearance of Semitic languages in the region of the Ancient Near East. The rapid spread of such nomadic pastoralism was typical of such later developments as of the Yamnaya culture of the horse and cattle nomads of the Eurasian steppe, or of the Mongol spread of the later Middle Ages.
One of the results of the break-up of the Soviet Union and the subsequent political independence and economic collapse of its Central Asian republics has been the resurgence of pastoral nomadism. Taking the Kyrgyz people as a representative example, nomadism was the centre of their economy before Russian colonization at the turn of the 20th century, when they were settled into agricultural villages. The population became increasingly urbanized after World War II, but some people still take their herds of horses and cows to high pastures (jailoo) every summer, continuing a pattern of transhumance.
Since the 1990s, as the cash economy shrank, unemployed relatives were reabsorbed into family farms, and the importance of this form of nomadism has increased. The symbols of nomadism, specifically the crown of the grey felt tent known as the yurt, appears on the national flag, emphasizing the central importance of nomadism in the genesis of the modern nation of Kyrgyzstan.
See also: Sedentism
From 1920 to 2008, population of nomadic pastoral tribes slowly decreased from over a quarter of Iran's population. Tribal pastures were nationalized during the 1960s. The National Commission of UNESCO registered the population of Iran at 21 million in 1963, of whom two million (9.5%) were nomads. Although the nomadic population of Iran has dramatically decreased in the 20th century, Iran still has one of the largest nomadic populations in the world, an estimated 1.5 million in a country of about 70 million.
In Kazakhstan where the major agricultural activity was nomadic herding, forced collectivization under Joseph Stalin's rule met with massive resistance and major losses and confiscation of livestock. Livestock in Kazakhstan fell from 7 million cattle to 1.6 million and from 22 million sheep to 1.7 million. The resulting famine of 1931–1934 caused some 1.5 million deaths: this represents more than 40% of the total Kazakh population at that time.
In the 1950s as well as the 1960s, large numbers of Bedouin throughout the Middle East started to leave the traditional, nomadic life to settle in the cities of the Middle East, especially as home ranges have shrunk and population levels have grown. Government policies in Egypt and Israel, oil production in Libya and the Persian Gulf, as well as a desire for improved standards of living, effectively led most Bedouin to become settled citizens of various nations, rather than stateless nomadic herders. A century ago nomadic Bedouin still made up some 10% of the total Arab population. Today they account for some 1% of the total.
Niger experienced a serious food crisis in 2005 following erratic rainfall and desert locust invasions. Nomads such as the Tuareg and Fulani, who make up about 20% of Niger's 12.9 million population, had been so badly hit by the Niger food crisis that their already fragile way of life is at risk. Nomads in Mali were also affected.
Pala nomads living in Western Tibet have a diet that is unusual in that they consume very few vegetables and no fruit. The main staple of their diet is tsampa and they drink Tibetan style butter tea. Pala will eat heartier foods in the winter months to help keep warm. Some of the customary restrictions they explain as cultural saying only that drokha do not eat certain foods, even some that may be naturally abundant. Though they live near sources of fish and fowl these do not play a significant role in their diet, and they do not eat carnivorous animals, rabbits or the wild asses that are abundant in the environs, classifying the latter as horse due to their cloven hooves. Some families do not eat until after the morning milking, while others may have a light meal with butter tea and tsampa. In the afternoon, after the morning milking, the families gather and share a communal meal of tea, tsampa and sometimes yogurt. During winter months the meal is more substantial and includes meat. Herders will eat before leaving the camp and most do not eat again until they return to camp for the evening meal. The typical evening meal may include thin stew with tsampa, animal fat and dried radish. Winter stew would include a lot of meat with either tsampa or boiled flour dumplings.
Nomadic diets in Kazakhstan have not changed much over centuries. The Kazakh nomad cuisine is simple and includes meat, salads, marinated vegetables and fried and baked breads. Tea is served in bowls, possibly with sugar or milk. Milk and other dairy products, like cheese and yogurt, are especially important. Kumiss is a drink of fermented milk. Wrestling is a popular sport, but the nomadic people do not have much time for leisure. Horse riding is a valued skill in their culture.
Main article: Itinerant groups in Europe
Further information: Vagrancy (people)
Each existing community is primarily endogamous, and subsists traditionally on a variety of commercial or service activities. Formerly, all or a majority of their members were itinerant, and this largely holds true today. Migration generally takes place within the political boundaries of a single state these days.
Each of the peripatetic communities is multilingual; it speaks one or more of the languages spoken by the local sedentary populations, and, additionally, within each group, a separate dialect or language is spoken. The latter are either of Indic or Iranian origin, and many are structured somewhat like an argot or secret language, with vocabularies drawn from various languages. There are indications that in northern Iran at least one community speaks Romani language, and some groups in Turkey also speak Romani.
Further information: Romani people
Further information: Dom people
In Afghanistan, the Nausar worked as tinkers and animal dealers. Ghorbat men mainly made sieves, drums, and bird cages, and the women peddled these as well as other items of household and personal use; they also worked as moneylenders to rural women. Peddling and the sale of various goods was also practiced by men and women of various groups, such as the Jalali, the Pikraj, the Shadibaz, the Noristani, and the Vangawala. The latter and the Pikraj also worked as animal dealers. Some men among the Shadibaz and the Vangawala entertained as monkey or bear handlers and snake charmers; men and women among the Baluch were musicians and dancers. The Baluch men were warriors that were feared by neighboring tribes and often were used as mercenaries. Jogi men and women had diverse subsistence activities, such as dealing in horses, harvesting, fortune-telling, bloodletting, and begging.
In Iran the Asheq of Azerbaijan, the Challi of Baluchistan, the Luti of Kurdistan, Kermānshāh, Īlām, and Lorestān, the Mehtar in the Mamasani district, the Sazandeh of Band-i Amir and Marv-dasht, and the Toshmal among the Bakhtyari pastoral groups worked as professional musicians. The men among the Kowli worked as tinkers, smiths, musicians, and monkey and bear handlers; they also made baskets, sieves, and brooms and dealt in donkeys. Their women made a living from peddling, begging, and fortune-telling.
The Ghorbat among the Basseri were smiths and tinkers, traded in pack animals, and made sieves, reed mats, and small wooden implements. In the Fārs region, the Qarbalband, the Kuli, and Luli were reported to work as smiths and to make baskets and sieves; they also dealt in pack animals, and their women peddled various goods among pastoral nomads. In the same region, the Changi and Luti were musicians and balladeers, and their children learned these professions from the age of 7 or 8 years.
The nomadic groups in Turkey make and sell cradles, deal in animals, and play music. The men of the sedentary groups work in towns as scavengers and hangmen; elsewhere they are fishermen, smiths, basket makers, and singers; their women dance at feasts and tell fortunes. Abdal men played music and made sieves, brooms, and wooden spoons for a living. The Tahtacı traditionally worked as lumberers; with increased sedentarization, however, they have taken to agriculture and horticulture.
Little is known for certain about the past of these communities; the history of each is almost entirely contained in their oral traditions. Although some groups—such as the Vangawala—are of Indian origin, some—like the Noristani—are most probably of local origin; still others probably migrated from adjoining areas. The Ghorbat and the Shadibaz claim to have originally come from Iran and Multan, respectively, and Tahtacı traditional accounts mention either Baghdad or Khorāsān as their original home. The Baluch say they[clarification needed] were attached as a service community to the Jamshedi, after they fled Baluchistan because of feuds.
Yeniche people in the 15th century
Tuareg in Mali, 1974.
Kyrgyz nomads, 1869–1870.
Nomads in the Desert (Giulio Rosati).
House barge of the Sea Gypsies, Indonesia. 1914–1921
Photograph of Bedouins (wandering Arabs) of Tunisia, 1899
Indian Gypsies painting by well-known artiste Raja Ravi Varma
Indian gypsy Banjara
Figurative use of the term:
The sedentary man envies the nomadic existence, the quest for green pastures, and the painted waggon is the house on wheels whose course follows the stars.
[...] van der Stel recognised the roving tendency among the colonists and tried to arrest it. A proclamation of 1692 illustrated his fears: it stated that colonists were making a living by grazing cattle and bartering in the interior [...]. This seems clear proof that the trekboer, as a distinct type, was coming into existence during the time of van der Stel. [...] Generation after generation of these hardy and self-reliant nomads pushed the frontiers of civilisation further into the wilderness.
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