Here is the plot: in a society close to earth and humans, but with medieval-like technologies, there is a group of people that is regularly migrated to a new place where it should installed itself. This group can bring material and tools but in the end, it should work by itself with the resources of the new land. The group could have any size between 5 000 to 20 000 people in it, the size will depends of what is possible to do.

So this looks like rather easy migration, but here are the problems:

  • The group will go in an uninhabited area: it will have to build everything from scratch
  • The group will go to "non-nice" areas: in the plot, "nice lands" with temperate climate are already occupied. What we called desert (either sand, mountain, snow... deserts) is the targeted zone for the migration
  • The group will have to build some sort of sustainable system (not just take the few resources in the new region and then move again)

Now the advantages:

  • All social and economic organization are allowed
  • If everyone is focused on getting something to eat, then it is ok. The group is not supposed to build cities and medieval comfort fastly

--------- EDIT ---------

Some precisions about the plot:

  • The polar desert could be either Antarctic or Arctic style
  • The medieval group could have some modern "permanent" technologies. For example he knows about phones but have none, and he could be vaccinated (but could not take medicine with him)
  • The group only needs to survive there, and not to have enough means to re-build a civilization

My story's plot would be that the group is sent to a region similar to Arctic (or Antarctic). But how could I justify this region to be appropriate, especially about the capability to have a reliable and durable of source for feeding this group?

Final question: How could a group of 5 to 20 thousand medieval colonists go to and establish themselves in a previously unpopulated polar desert and survive by their own means?

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    $\begingroup$ Note that 1 million people is a lot in medieval times, even more so when migrating in a foreign and "non-nice" lands $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Mar 12 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ The whole reason deserts are considered "non-nice" in the first place is that it's difficult or impossible to maintain a population there. If it were possible for a large group to live on that land, people would already be doing so. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Mar 12 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena Yes you're right, 10 000 is a better number for my plot $\endgroup$ Mar 12 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ VTC: Needs details or clarity. Five thousand people is one thing, they can survive on a relatively small island by fishing, for example; one million people is quite another thing: the entire population of England in 1066 was about 2 million people. Migrating to a desert implies an mass epidemic of insanity, nobody did that ever in the entire history of mankind. Migrating into the mountains is different from migrating into colder areas. (And I don't get what you mean by snow being "not nice". Snow is a normal regular phenomenon throughout most of northern, central and eastern Europe.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Mar 12 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ @totalMongot If you read the help center, the concept behind a "best answer" is identified. It's based on the fact that what Stack Exchange wants (and that's who you're fighting against, not me) is objective questions. An objective question always has a right/best/most-appropriate answer. Subjective questions don't. In the case of superlatives, the problem is you are required to define them. "Best" when it comes to questions is usually circumstantial (opinion-based) or, worse, only reflected by something in your head that we don't know. If you think this is wrong, try Meta Stack Exchange. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Mar 15 at 19:46

2 Answers 2


Assuming that they can take shelter with them in the form of tents, the overriding issue will be finding enough food. If they enter a desert area they will fairly rapidly exhaust whatever provisions they could bring and the limited provisions that might be found in the new locality and they would all starve.

The best best would be to follow a coastline where at least there might be the option of fishing or to follow a river upstream, even if the vegetation to either side was limited (gallery forest or similar) this would provide more sustenance and the river would provide the possibility of irrigation.

If the intention is to go into a true desert area then the supplies taken should be extensive, the group size small (one million would die very quickly) and there should be some target site for development such as an oasis.

In most cases your medieval travellers would simply starve or die of thirst or heat/cold. Even in temperate areas it is easy to starve if you are unfamiliar with the local vegetation as many Europeans did in North America when they first arrived.


The 'dark ages' are more commonly known as 'The Age of Migrations". Many people just upped sticks and moved, assuming the grass was greener on the other side. A proper historian may be able to fill you in a bit, but I am not sure even they know 'why'. Does everyone shifting around a bit meet your criteria?


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