In evolutionary anthropology and archaeology
Sociocultural evolution
Sociocultural evolution is an umbrella term for theories of cultural evolution and social evolution, describing how cultures and societies have changed over time...

, sedentism (sometimes denominated sedentariness), is a term applied to the transition from nomadic to permanent, year-round settlement.

Requirements for permanent settlements

It is difficult to settle down permanently—to become sedentary—in a landscape without on-site agricultural or cattle-breeding resources, since sedentism requires:
  • sufficient year-round local natural resources;
  • sufficient easily-accessible local natural resources (several hundred meters distant, at most).

Sedentism is a consequence of the discovery of agriculture. [this is no longer considered accurate]

Both situations require good preservation and storage technologies. For example cooking, smoking, drying and fermenting of foods
Fermentation (food)
Fermentation in food processing typically is the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids using yeasts, bacteria, or a combination thereof, under anaerobic conditions. Fermentation in simple terms is the chemical conversion of sugars into ethanol...

, as well as good containers such as pottery, baskets or special pits in which to securely store food whilst making it available. It was only at locations where the resources of several major ecosystems overlapped that enabled the earliest sedentism to occur (pre-agricultural sedentism). For example where a river met the sea, at lagoon
A lagoon is a body of shallow sea water or brackish water separated from the sea by some form of barrier. The EU's habitat directive defines lagoons as "expanses of shallow coastal salt water, of varying salinity or water volume, wholly or partially separated from the sea by sand banks or shingle,...

 environments along the coast, at river confluences, or where flat savanna
A savanna, or savannah, is a grassland ecosystem characterized by the trees being sufficiently small or widely spaced so that the canopy does not close. The open canopy allows sufficient light to reach the ground to support an unbroken herbaceous layer consisting primarily of C4 grasses.Some...

 met hills and mountains with rivers.

Before agriculture

During the last 30 years archaeological research has shown the earliest sedentism started before one began with on-site agriculture and cattle breeding, and most researchers now believe that sedentism was a prerequisite for the first agriculture to occur. Sedentism, both without agriculture and with this economy, usually meant more people, sturdier houses, new stone tools, more jewelry, burials or cemeteries, more long-distance goods and also clear signs of stratification
Social stratification
In sociology the social stratification is a concept of class, involving the "classification of persons into groups based on shared socio-economic conditions ... a relational set of inequalities with economic, social, political and ideological dimensions."...

. At sedentary sites usually more people lived together for a longer time compared to earlier base camp sites or annual gathering sites. This created deeper cultural layers and thus generally richer archaeological materials. There are also indications that the use of rock art
Rock art
Rock art is a term used in archaeology for any human-made markings made on natural stone. They can be divided into:*Petroglyphs - carvings into stone surfaces*Pictographs - rock and cave paintings...

 is connected to sedentism, both pre-agricultural and agricultural forms.


A year-round sedentary site, with its usually larger population, generates a substantial demand on local resources, a demand that, for example in the Middle East, could have triggered the first attempts to cultivate plants on-site. In the Middle East the Natufian culture was the first to become sedentary at around 12000 BC. The Natufians were sedentary during a period of more than 2000 years before they at some sites started to cultivate plants around 10000 BC. However, the first sedentary sites consisted of pre-agricultural ones, and they appeared during the Upper Paleolithic
Upper Paleolithic
The Upper Paleolithic is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. Very broadly it dates to between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago, roughly coinciding with the appearance of behavioral modernity and before the advent of...

 in Moravia
Moravia is a historical region in Central Europe in the east of the Czech Republic, and one of the former Czech lands, together with Bohemia and Silesia. It takes its name from the Morava River which rises in the northwest of the region...

 in Europe and on the Russian Plain
East European Plain
The East European Plain is a plain comprising a series of river basins in Eastern Europe. Together with the Northern European Plain it constitutes the European Plain. It is the largest mountain-free part of the European landscape.The plain spans approximately and averages about in elevation...

 already during the interval of c. 25000-17000 BC.

The Jomon culture
Jomon period
The is the time in Japanese prehistory from about 14,000 BC to 300 BC.The term jōmon means "cord-patterned" in Japanese. This refers to the pottery style characteristic of the Jōmon culture, and which has markings made using sticks with cords wrapped around them...

 in Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, which was primarily a coastal culture, was sedentary from c. 12000 to 10000 BC until the cultivation of rice at some sites in northern Kyushu
is the third largest island of Japan and most southwesterly of its four main islands. Its alternate ancient names include , , and . The historical regional name is referred to Kyushu and its surrounding islands....

. In northernmost Scandinavia, there are several early sedentary sites without evidence of agriculture or cattle breeding. They appear from c. 5300-4500 BC and are all located optimally in the landscape for extraction of major ecosystem resources. In Sweden (the Lillberget Stone Age village site c. 3900 BC) represents such a site, in Norway (the Nyelv site c. 5300 BC, and in Finland (the Enare träsk site, c. 4500 BC). In northern Sweden the earliest indication of agriculture occurs at previously sedentary sites, and one example is the Bjurselet site used during the period c. 2700-1700 BC, famous for its large caches of long distance traded flint axe
Flint axe
A flint axe was a Flint tool used during prehistoric times to perform a variety of tasks. These were at first just a cut piece of flint stone used as a hand axe but later wooden handles were attached to these axe heads. The stone exhibits a glass-like fracture similar to obsidian, and can be...

s from Denmark and southernmost Sweden (some 1300 km). The evidence of small scale agriculture at that site can be seen from c. 2300 BC (burnt cereals of barley).

Effects of sedentism

Sedentism increased contacts and trade, and the first Middle East cereals and cattle in Europe, could have spread through a stepping stone process, where the productive gift (the cereals, cattle, sheep and goat) was exchanged through a network of large pre-agricultural sedentary sites, rather than a wave of advance spread of people with agricultural economy, and where the smaller sites found in between the bigger sedentary ones, did not get any of the new products. Not all contemporary sites during a certain period (after the first sedentism occurred at one site) were sedentary. Evaluation of habitational sites in northern Sweden indicates that less than 10 percent of all the sites around 4000 BC, were sedentary. At the same time, only 0.5-1 percent of these represented villages with more than 3-4 houses. This means that the old nomadic or migratory life style continued in a parallel fashion for several thousand years, until somewhat more sites turned to sedentism, and gradually switched over to agricultural sedentism.

The shift to sedentism is coupled with the adoption of new subsistence strategies, specifically from foraging
- Definitions and significance of foraging behavior :Foraging is the act of searching for and exploiting food resources. It affects an animal's fitness because it plays an important role in an animal's ability to survive and reproduce...

 (hunter-gatherer) to agricultural
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 and animal domestication
Domestication or taming is the process whereby a population of animals or plants, through a process of selection, becomes accustomed to human provision and control. In the Convention on Biological Diversity a domesticated species is defined as a 'species in which the evolutionary process has been...

. The development of sedentism led to the rise of population aggregation and formation of village
A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet with the population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand , Though often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighbourhoods, such as the West Village in Manhattan, New...

s, cities, and other community
The term community has two distinct meanings:*a group of interacting people, possibly living in close proximity, and often refers to a group that shares some common values, and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household...


In North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, evidence for sedentism emerges around 4500 BC.

Forced sedentism

Forced sedentism or sedentarization occurs when a dominant group restricts the movements of a nomadic group. Nomadic populations have undergone such a process since the first cultivation of land; the organization of the modern society have imposed demands that have pushed aboriginal populations to adopt a fixed habitat.

There are many examples of forced sedentarization with detrimental effects on minority groups in developed countries. The fate of many formerly nomadic groups has mainly been determined by policies instituted during western colonialism
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

 or by modern western governments. The ongoing destruction of nomadic peoples' way of life constitutes a decline in human diversity
Multiculturalism is the appreciation, acceptance or promotion of multiple cultures, applied to the demographic make-up of a specific place, usually at the organizational level, e.g...

, contributing to the hegemony of westernized civilization, which interestingly is contradictory to certain western governments' political doctrine of tolerance
Tolerance or toleration is the practice of permitting a thing of which one disapproves, such as social, ethnic, sexual, or religious practices.Tolerance, tolerant, or toleration may also refer to:...


This can cause great social decline, and also weaken the ethnic identity of the population affected, as examples show of North American indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups that are defined as indigenous according to one of the various definitions of the term, there is no universally accepted definition but most of which carry connotations of being the "original inhabitants" of a territory....

 such as the Inuit
The Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Canada , Denmark , Russia and the United States . Inuit means “the people” in the Inuktitut language...

 in the mid-20th century.

See also

  • Bantustan
    A bantustan was a territory set aside for black inhabitants of South Africa and South West Africa , as part of the policy of apartheid...

  • Indian reservation
    Indian reservation
    An American Indian reservation is an area of land managed by a Native American tribe under the United States Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs...

  • Paleolithic diet
    Paleolithic diet
    The modern dietary regimen known as the Paleolithic diet , also popularly referred to as the caveman diet, Stone Age diet and hunter-gatherer diet, is a nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various hominid species habitually consumed during the...

  • Sedentary lifestyle
    Sedentary lifestyle
    Sedentary lifestyle is a medical term used to denote a type of lifestyle with no or irregular physical activity. A person who lives a sedentary lifestyle may colloquially be known as a couch potato. It is commonly found in both the developed and developing world...

  • Timeline of agriculture and food technology
    Timeline of agriculture and food technology
    Timeline of agriculture and food technology÷-Neolithic Revolution:* 11,500 BC – Rice domesticated in China.nt Near East]]* 12,000 BC – Natufians in the Levant begin harvesting wild grasses....

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.