When prehistoric peoples began to farm, they built settlements. However, some peoples preferred to continue to move about in search of food, following a nomadic lifestyle. Nomads do not need settled homes, but they do need shelter from the weather, so many of them carry tents made of skins or woven fabric. Tents are light to carry and can be put up very quickly.

In the modern world, we live in sedentary, or non-mobile, societies. That’s what we’re used to. However, that lifestyle didn’t become widely available until the late Stone Age, a period called the Neolithic (literally meaning New Stone Age), as the Ice Age ended around 10,000 BCE. For the roughly 190,000 years of human existence prior to that, within the period called the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age), all human societies were nomadic. This means that they did not have permanent addresses or build permanent structures. They traveled throughout the year, moving with their food supplies and available resources.

Nomadism seems like a pretty simple concept, but we’ve seen throughout history that there are actually a number of different ways to be nomadic. Some nomadic people seem to have relied heavily on large herds of animals like bison, following the herds wherever they roamed and hunting for survival. Others, including many around the Mediterranean Sea, seem to have moved around based, at least in part, on when various plant resources became available, traveling throughout the region as various natural fruits, seeds, and grains came into season.

Other societies of this time may have been only semi-nomadic, which means they maintained a semi-permanent residence for part of the year (generally one season or less). There seems to have been two factors which made this possible. For one, semi-nomadic groups had to have a place that could provide steady resources for an extended period of time. Perhaps the best example of this is a large river where fish migrate during a particular time of year. Tribes could camp by the river and harvest fish for weeks, preserving the meat so that it would last.

The second factor is harsh climatic conditions. It’s important to remember that Paleolithic people were living in the Ice Age. Winters were rough, and it seems likely that many of the cave dwellings we’ve found were occupied for weeks or months at a time. People used the caves for shelter during rough winter months, during which many herds of animals weren’t moving around too much, and waited until spring to start roaming again.

Nomadic people did not farm for food but acquired it as they traveled. We call this a hunter-gatherer economy, which is exactly what the name implies. They hunted for food and gathered other resources as they became available. Both of these required an interesting amount of balance. Nomadic people lived on the move and didn’t have permanent storage facilities (like attics or pantries). Because of this, they couldn’t simply gather all the food and resources they found. They could only gather that which they could carry.

Picture Credit : Google