Nomads — sometimes called itinerants — are people with no fixed home who travel frequently from place to place. Many nomads move as the seasons change in search of food, water and places for their animals to graze.
The word “nomad” comes from a Greek word meaning “roaming about for pasture.” Although it may seem strange to you if your family has settled permanently in one area, there are 30-40 million nomads around the world.
Some cultures around the world have traditionally always been nomadic. In today’s industrialized countries, however, nomads are few and far between.
Nomads can usually be divided into three categories: hunter-gatherers, pastoral nomads and peripatetic nomads. Hunter-gatherers — sometimes called foragers — are the oldest type of nomad. They have been around since the beginning of human history.
As their name suggests, they move about frequently in search of wild fruits, vegetables and animals that change with the seasons. All human beings were hunter-gatherers up until about 10,000 years ago.
As farming developed, the need to move about constantly was reduced. Today, there are very few hunter-gatherer societies, and those that do exist supplement their foraging with farming and raising animals.
Pastoral nomads raise large herds of animals. As animals eat all of the available food in a particular area, pastoral nomads must move their herds — and themselves — to new pastures, so that depleted pastures can recover and grow new food.
Although they don’t maintain permanent homes, pastoral nomads usually stick to a specific area. Depending upon the size of their herds, though, the area they roam can be hundreds, if not thousands, of square miles. When they choose an area to live for several weeks to several months, they often erect portable, wood-framed houses called yurts.
The only types of nomads you’re likely to find in industrialized nations are peripatetic nomads. These nomads travel frequently because they participate in or work for types of businesses, such as circuses, that travel from place to place.