Sunday, July 3, 2011


Well, home from summer camp, and you know what it made me think about? Nomads. No, really. Spend a week without air conditioning and you start thinking about spending your summers in cool places and your winters in warm places. I’m not talking about the nomads who walk their herds or flocks from place to place so they can eat (more “modern” and still in existence today). I’m talking more about the hunters who followed herds or the gatherers that move from harvest to harvest. Probably a lot of mixed hunters and harvesters there; that’s why they were called hunter-gatherers. (OK, it doesn’t really matter which type I’m talking about.)
How did it work? Well, at its most general level, they moved to where the food was. There’s a Sam Kinison joke in there for you old guys. Let’s say they ambushed the migratory cattle herds as they were moving north with the spring, then they shifted position to harvest the wild beans. Next they went to where the summer succulent fruits grew, but they hurried to the site of the wild tubers and then on to the winter squashes at their height. Before winter sets in, they’re canoeing through the swamps collecting the wild rice, only to arrive in the citrus groves for the winter. OK, I haven’t checked to see if that would work, but it sounds good. There could also be stopping to hit the salmon runs or gathering eggs and meat from some ground birds when they hit their nesting season.
OK - back to the ultimate question - Why? Why do you care? Well, it seems to me that established farmers know how much space they need, and likely have it. To go to war with another country would be a major issue, and keep them from their crops - not something they would want. Even their nobles, who gather taxes on the crops, wouldn’t want them away for long periods. But the nomads have to move from place to place in order to eat and survive. Boy would they be pissed if they have a two or three year wandering cycle and they return to find one of their required spots is now a colony of cotton farmers. They might travel through established fields. They might deplete a certain type of prey animal in a region, but only on a three year wander cycle, so the animal has a chance to build numbers again. If that prey animal is now part of the permanent settlers’ diet, they aren’t going to be happy about the nomads “stealing their food”.
It’s all about perceptions, and those conflicting perceptions causing strife. Two groups of nomads might vie for the same resources. Nomads and permanent dwellers might compete for the same foods or space or water. This would be far more likely to cause problems that need to be solved by battle than those of established agricultural cultures. In a way, it is the same argument fought by the cattlemen and farmers of the USA’s “Wild West”. The cattle herds needed to roam, but then the farmers started putting up all these fences that got in the way of getting the herds to water. Instant conflict - the kind you might want to hire some hired guns, I mean adventurers, to straighten out! Just an idea, or several.

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