Agriculture and nomadism/sedentarism

This would also be a good topic to discuss in the awakening stage section, but I found it would be way more relevant here.
Anyways, I know little of biology but I’m “addicted in history”, specially pre-historical history (including pre-columbian history here) and there are two questions that have always fascinated me: could “advanced civilization” (in lack of any other term that could be used and understood with ease) develop amongst nomadic cultures? and could “advanced civilizations” develop amongst cultures that use little to no agriculture? Also, a third question: can societes that do not use any kind of agriculture become sedentary (and be stable societes at that)?
I know the answer for the third question is yes, there have been sizable (a few hundred, at most thousand people) societes like that at least in the British Isles and the North American West Coast, where food sources are/were quite abundant. I do not know the answer for the other two though, but I do think it should be possible and amazing to see the possibility of having various combinations of these two features (nomadism and agriculture) leading to the development of civilization, as well as the consequences for each of these societes. Here are a few ideas:

Agriculture based sedentary societes: Basically what we have today. Would allow for larger populations, but would also be heavily dependent on sucessful harvests and droughts could lead to famine and, eventually, the need for getting resources from other nations (which ends up meaning war in many cases). Still, they should be more stable internally, as not having everyone move around all the time can lead to an easier development of more complex societes.

Hunting-gathering sedentery societes: Small societes and heavilly dependent on regions which have abundant resources (like river estuaries filled with fish). Very stable societies though, as their food supply shouldn’t vary a lot (except for climate change and possibly other natural disasters, but I wouldn’t be able to tell which). The abundance of resources may also lead to a lack of interest in military and economic developments.

Hunting-gathering nomadic societes: Possibly the smallest kind of societes. In real life they are societes that either did not know agriculture or refused to use it for some reason. In general, their nomadic life-style would come from a need to get resources, as staying in one place would/could deplete the resources in that area. They would be more stable economically than agricultural sedentary societes, as they would have less people to feed and a more predictable and continuous food source. They would be less stable politically though, as the lack of resources could lead to raiding other factions/war with them and having everyone in your country moving around all the time shouldn’t help internally either.

Semi-nomadic societes: A highly adaptable kind of society, which knows agriculture but also relies greatly on hunting-gathering and moves it’s population occasionaly, depending on the availability of resources. I guess they would be a mix of all the other ones, not being very stable neither too unstable in any aspect whatsover.

Sorry for the very long topic. There’s a lot more of stuff that I would like to discuss, but some of it would be too complex for the game (at least for it’s full release), like gender roles, and other things would be nice to discuss, but only later on perhaps, like the effects nomadism/sedentarism can have on the view that a culture has on propierty.

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Very interesting questions :slight_smile:

I think it’s hard to see how advanced technology could develop in a nomadic society, they can’t really have libraries because they can’t carry the books around. They can’t build anything large scale, like forges or factories so I’m pretty inclined to say they can’t get beyond a certain point.

However being nomadic is generally pretty awesome. The Mongols basically ran the world for a while and apparently nomad horsemen were impossible to control all the way up to the invention of the attack helicopter so they are a really important part of the history of civilisation. I also think they’re not so hard to model so should be included in the game for sure.

Re “agriculture” I guess there’s several different things. If your planet was mostly ocean with small island chains then you would exist primarily on fishing which would be fine I think, so long as you have a stable food source you can build on that.

I think working out what alien creatures are on your planet and how that drives civilisation development is a really interesting question. Like if you have beasts or burden, or animals that provide great food, that is a big advantage.

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I don’t think a sedentary hunter gatherer society would be very feasible. Although, like you said, small localised examples do exist, any larger society would quickly fall apart. Resources might be abundant in their local area, but as soon as they start to expand they would encounter more average areas, where they would not be able to live. This leads to them being incapable to form economies of scale, and thus fail to see any major technological development.

Do they have to expand a lot though? Couldn’t trade with other civilizations be enough for them to develop? I mean, there’s this mentality today, specially in games, that a civilization needs to be large to become “advanced”, when this kind of agressive expansion may actually not be needed at all. As long as these communities can have trade with other, similiar in kind or not, they should be able to not only get enough resources to grow more, as they should also get enough stimulation to develop further. It should be entirely possible to have societies composed of small communities with a few houndred to a couple tousand inhabitants each become “advanced” if given enough time. It just didn’t happen in our world because all of these communities were conquered by other, larger ones.

Yeah that makes sense, I guess it would be possible but very unlikely. They’d have to find some way to make themselves easily accessible to traders, yet hard to conquer.

I think it would be impossible for nomadic tribes to develop until the industrial age, because that is where all the steam machines and the coal mining and factories come in, 3 things that require you staying in place for a long time. So I think nomadic tribes could survive and even thrive in a medieval style era, but they would not have today’s technology

The agricultural evolution happened very early in time, way before the Middle Ages. This allowed people to build towns, which was more efficient than being nomadic.

I think something to keep in mind is that things would be somewhat different on an alien planet. What if there is a fast growing crop that your tribe can move around? Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t it be beneficial to move said crops around to the most nutrient-rich and fertile land? And when the nutrients are depleted they can just move to another area. It would be semi-nomadic at best, but your tribe still consistently moves instead of permanently sticking to one area, and of course there would be shepherds and herds of creatures for food as well. I might be making incorrect assumptions about how it would work, but I believe it could be possible for an advanced society to exist that also is somewhat nomadic on another world that is different from ours.

I understand we need to keep the alien factor in, but my point is that a nomadic tribe could not reach the space stage on its own, without heavy technological trading with a sedentary neighbour. It just can’t have the necessary specialized workers, like engineers or miners, because they’re too busy moving around all the time and tracking prey and so on.

The aliens if grazers, could use some sort of a w as they move to pick up grass

Not trying to bring you down or anything, but what is “a w”? Did you mean AI? Or did you not finish the word? If you meant AI, it circles back to them not having the workforce necessary to build such technology, since primitive nomadic tribes are always too busy looking for food, but if that’s not necessary because of an abundance of food, they have no reason to develop. They can just stay in their little spot with their little gang. The reason sedentary groups always expanded was because they could afford to do so, with a sturdy social system and nutritional security. That, is what drives them to develop. Nomads just don’t have any reason to do so.

Sorry, ment a tool like a plow or something

Ah, that makes more sense. I guess anything goes in an alien environment, but I feel like purposefully staying nomadic is just a debuff on yourself, and sedentarism is just simpler. I may be wrong depending on the situation, but I would need to look more into the subject to stay accurate.

I agree but you never know🤷‍♂️

I agree that maybe just settling down is a lot better in the long run for your race, but I still think players should have the freedom to try and find solutions for the problems that nomadic lifestyle brings. There is literally a planned editor that the player can use to build and adapt technology to their race and culture, and whatever the player desires. I feel like it should be possible, it would be hard yes, getting all the resources and research, but I feel like the player should be able to choose how they want to play and find and build something that can make them succeed even if they choose something that debuffs them.

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