AskDefine | Define nomadic

Dictionary Definition

nomadic adj : (of groups of people) tending to travel and change settlements frequently; "a restless mobile society"; "the nomadic habits of the Bedouins"; "believed the profession of a peregrine typist would have a happy future"; "wandering tribes" [syn: mobile, peregrine, roving, wandering]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • a UK /nəʊˈmæd.ɪk/, /n@U"m

Extensive Definition

Nomadic people, also known as nomads, are communities of people that move from one place to another, rather than settling down in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have been traditionally nomadic, but traditional nomadic behavior is increasingly rare in industrialized countries. There are three kinds of nomads, hunter-gatherers, pastoral nomads, and peripatetic nomads.
Nomadic hunter-gatherers have by far the longest-lived subsistence method in human history, following seasonally available wild plants and game. Pastoralists raise herds and move with them so as not to deplete pasture beyond recovery in any one area. Peripatetic nomads are more common in industrialized nations, traveling from one territory to another and offering a trade wherever they go.

Nomadic hunter-gatherers

For more than one million years before domestication, nomadic hunter-gatherers (also known as foragers) moved from campsite to campsite, following game and wild fruits and vegetables.
Examples of nomadic hunter-gatherers

Pastoral nomads

This nomadic pastoralism is thought to have developed in three stages that accompanied population growth and an increase in the complexity of social organization. Karim Sadr has proposed the following stages:
  • Pastoralism: This is a mixed economy with a symbiosis within the family.
  • Agropastoralism: This is when symbiosis is between segments or clans within an ethnic group.
  • True Nomadism: This is when symbiosis is at the regional level, generally between specialized nomadic and agricultural populations.
The pastoralists are sedentary to a certain area as they move between the permanent spring, summer, autumn and winter pastures for their livestock The nomads moved depending on the availability of their resources.

Origin of nomadic pastoralism

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") began also 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 8500-6500 BC in the area of the southern Levant. There, during a period of increasing aridity, 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 Turko-Mongol spread of the later Middle Ages.

Examples of pastoral nomads

Traditionally nomadic people in industrialized nations

One of the consequences of the break-up of the Soviet Union and the subsequent political independence and economic collapse of its Central Asian republics is the resurgence of pastoral nomadism. Taking the Kyrgyz people as a representative example, nomadism was the center of their economy prior to Russian colonization at the turn of the C19/C20, when they were settled into agricultural villages. The population became increasingly urbanized after World War II, but some people continued to take their herds of horses and cows to the high pasture (jailoo) every summer, i.e. a pattern of transhumance. Since the 1990s, as the cash economy shrunk, unemployed relatives were absorbed back on the family farm, 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 centrality of their nomadic history and past in the creation of the modern nation of Kyrgyzstan.

Nomadism unique to industrialized nations

See also


Mohsen Farsani. Lamentations chez les nomades bakhtiari d'Iran, Paris. 2003.

Further reading

nomadic in Bosnian: Nomadi
nomadic in Bulgarian: Номад
nomadic in Catalan: Nomadisme
nomadic in German: Nomade
nomadic in Spanish: Nómada
nomadic in Esperanto: Nomado
nomadic in French: Nomadisme
nomadic in Galician: Nómade
nomadic in Croatian: Nomadi
nomadic in Indonesian: Nomaden
nomadic in Italian: Popoli nomadi
nomadic in Kazakh: Көшпенді халықтар
nomadic in Latvian: Nomadi
nomadic in Hungarian: Vándorlás
nomadic in Dutch: Nomade
nomadic in Japanese: 遊牧民
nomadic in Norwegian: Nomade
nomadic in Norwegian Nynorsk: Nomade
nomadic in Polish: Nomada
nomadic in Portuguese: Povo nômade
nomadic in Romanian: Popoare migratoare
nomadic in Russian: Кочевые народы
nomadic in Simple English: Nomadic people
nomadic in Slovenian: Nomadi
nomadic in Serbian: Номадизам
nomadic in Serbo-Croatian: Nomad
nomadic in Finnish: Nomadit
nomadic in Swedish: Nomader
nomadic in Turkish: Göçebe
nomadic in Chinese: 遊牧民族
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