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Pastoralism is a lifestyle in which economic activity is based primarily on livestock. Archaeological evidence suggests that by 3000 B.C., and perhaps even earlier, there had emerged on the steppes of Inner Eurasia the distinctive types of pastoralism that were to dominate the region's history for several millennia. Here, the horse was already becoming the animal of prestige in many regions, though sheep, goats, and cattle could also play a vital role. It is the use of horses for transportation and warfare that explains why Inner Eurasian pastoralism proved the most mobile and the most militaristic of all major fors of pastoralism. The emergence and spread of pastoralism had a profound impact on the history of Inner Eurasia, and also, indirectly, on the parts of Asia and Europe just outside this area. In particular, pastoralism favors a mobile lifestyle, and this mobility helps to explain the impact of pastoralist societies on this part of the world.
The mobility of pastoralist societies reflects their dependence on animalbased foods. While agriculturalists rely on domesticated plants, pastoralists rely on domesticated animals. As a result, pastoraksts, like carnivores in general, occupy a higher position on the food chain. All else being equal, this means they must exploit larger areas of land than do agriculturalists to secure the same amount of food, clothing, and other necessities. So pastoralism is a more extensive lifeway than farming is. However, the larger the terrain used to support a group, the harder it is to exploit that terrain while remaining in one place. So, basic ecological principles imply a strong tendency within pastoralist lifeways toward nomadism (a mobile lifestyle). As the archaeologist Roger Cribb puts it, 'The greater the degree of pastoralism, the stronger the tendency toward nomadism.' A modern Turkic nomad interviewed by Cribb commented: "The more animals you have, the farther you have to move.
Nomadism has further consequences. It means that pastoralist societies occupy and can influence very large territories. This is particularly true of the horse pastoralism that emerged in the Inner Eurasian steppes, for this was the most mobile of all major forms of pastoralism So, it is no accident that with the appearance of pastoralist societies there appear large areas that share similar cultural, ecological, and even linguistic features. By the late fourth millennium B.C., there is already evidence of large culture zones reaching from Eastem Europe to the western borders of Mongolia. Perhaps the most striking sign of mobility is the fact that by the third millennium B.C., most pastoralists in th...
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This note was uploaded on 09/17/2013 for the course LANGUAGE 13DL208 taught by Professor Wang during the Fall '13 term at East China Normal University.
- Fall '13