What if the human race never sedentarized and was forced to wander on earth.

What if a creature hunted humans restlessly and the only way to survive was to avoid settling down for more than 48 hours. And i mean, a creature Humans could never surpass or hide from, no matter what technology level they reach. They are hunting all over the world, maybe thanks to species variation. (I won't hide you don't need to ask what they are, they are just a reason to prevent Human from settling. And all humanity is threaten, all civilizations of this world would be vagrants.

How much effort would it take to reach a Middle Age level of civilization and what would it look like ?

By "Middle Age level of civilization" i mean the evolution gap between firsts homo sapiens and Middle Age civilization. It is ill posed, but it's hard to quantify. It's like saying the Lord of the ring take place in Middle Age, it's wrong but it still light up images in our mind.

And, i don't want answers like "It's not a plausible world" or "they'r all going to die anyway", It's a fantasy world so i just need plausible way for humanity to survive and achieve technology and knowledge to go as far as Middle Age level.


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    $\begingroup$ If you don't want settlements, what would you see as "middle age civilization"? $\endgroup$ – Mołot Oct 14 '16 at 9:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Molot I don't really know yet. "Middle Age level of civilization" sounds better (thanks @Pete). I wanted to refers to the evolution gap between firsts homo sapiens and Middle Age. A vagrant Middle Age civilization would not be anything like our Middle Age. $\endgroup$ – Porunga Oct 14 '16 at 10:10
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    $\begingroup$ What's preventing human from verge of extinction? Constantly on the run requires energy and food with high protein that is necessary for muscle development always run from us. Also how do they pass down knowledge before being terminated? $\endgroup$ – user6760 Oct 14 '16 at 13:19
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    $\begingroup$ This question is ill-posed. What qualifies as "middle age level of civilization"? The same level of technology? Similar social structures? Total population on the planet? $\endgroup$ – Shufflepants Oct 14 '16 at 15:54
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    $\begingroup$ I think I'd use the word "migrant" or "nomadic" before I'd choose "vagrant", as I think "vagrant" has connotations of varying from a norm, but if their norm is to move about, they aren't varying. $\endgroup$ – Dronz Oct 14 '16 at 22:43

12 Answers 12


Don't sell human brains or natural selection short. We are incredibly adaptable to varying conditions and there's no reason to assume we would be unable to thrive in the conditions you're describing.

You need to think in terms of what kind of realistic abilities and technologies these people would have. For example, they might be fantastically good at multitasking--they walk and weave at the same time. They have looms that attach to their bodies so they can weave while they walk. They carry vats for paper making harnessed to themselves. You have the vat on your back and the person behind you is stirring it while you are both walking. Children pick up weaving and other crafts really quickly because the genes that govern that are selected.

Navigation is second nature to everyone. Maybe they don't have to write because they have extremely good memories. Suppose someone came up with an incredibly effective mnemonic device system that would be roughly equivalent in their society to the printing press. A way to describe their developed technologies in extremely efficient verbal shorthand.

Maybe they have litters where they can carry young/sick/old. Maybe the litters are really expansive and carried by everyone--say it's mounted on your shoulders and head so the people under the litter are still free to use their hands. Maybe people could sleep in shifts and you could never need to stop at all.

Maybe genes would be selected in such a way that you got a mix of diurnal and nocturnal people so that you had natural 24 hour "coverage".

Domesticate something that can travel at the same pace as you. Herds of elephants that hold up a litter that has a small village or garden on it.

Suppose you had a few dozen vegetable gardens widely spread out. You tend each for a few hours of the day as you pass by that way. Suppose you randomize the order in which you visit them so that the predator doesn't figure out how to use your schedule to track you. This vegetable garden idea could have naturally come up by someone having the idea to plant the seed of something they ate in a place where the nomadic travels would bring them back, and when that worked everyone started doing it every place.

"The world is our garden/farm". Instead of having a place with a fence and a home, you cultivate everywhere.

Multiple highly cooperative groups doing the "cultivate everywhere" thing, just seeing what needs to be done in a given field and doing it and moving on, since, if everyone does that, the food will be ready at the place you happen to be when it's harvest time. (Mormon pioneers did something like this--the first group to leave would plant a field that a later group would harvest when they got there.)

Maybe people don't have time to fight each other, so they are genetically selected to be cooperative rather than violent. Extreme cultural bias toward cooperation.

Permanent structures could be built a little at a time so that eventually there are little clusters of shelters all over the place. That could give you a motivation for writing since they could leave notes to each other about local needs or resources.

Maybe you would have different cultures evolve that did different combinations of the above. Like some have the gardens and some have the elephant-mounted platforms and some do the human-mounted litters.

Big structures like bridges could be built cooperatively over time. Instructions could be left saying "we did X, the next thing that needs to happen is Y, there are trees at Z location that would work for that". Maybe you have a specialization called a "runner" that moves between groups carry messages/warnings/etc.

Maybe you could have "homing dogs" or something where instead of just messages (like homing pigeons would carry) they can have a pack tied to them and they are released and know to find their way back to their return point.

Domesticated birds that live in a mobile chicken coop and provide eggs. Some kind of plant/berry/whatever that is cultivated and selected to need small amounts of soil so that it could be carried with you and provide you nourishment.


The Mongols were "vagrants" - even as a large empire

Let's step back a bit: the ice age warms up and humans are able to domesticate plants and animals and use agriculture as a means to make food instead of hunting and gathering. The vast majority of humans across the earth become agriculturists.

However, a fair number - particularly in the vast steppes of Central Asia - become herders. Herders are an interesting and viable alternative to agriculture. Instead of settling down and growing crops, herders got a bunch of animals that could provide meat, milk, hides, and so on, and traveled around with them as they grazed. This made things like developing systems of laws somewhat difficult, as there was no "capital city" among herders, but individually, herders have historically been MUCH hardier than agriculturalists.

Onto the Mongols. In the early 13th century, a bright and charismatic Mongol leader named Temujin gets the idea to unite all the Mongol tribes. Long story short, it works out. He becomes known as the Great Khan - Genghis Khan.

Then Temujin/Genghis Khan realizes that the powerful Chinese state to the south would never tolerate an equally powerful neighbor, so he takes the fight to them by going around the Great Wall of China and interrogating Chinese prisoners of war along the way to learn about siege warfare. They besiege the Chinese capital and crush the Jin dynasty to create the Yuan dynasty and the Mongols begin their rule over China.

Another long story short, they send an emissary to Persia to open trade. China and Persia have never been on quite good terms over their claims on Central Asia, so the Persians behead the emissary and return the head to China. Genghis Khan is furious and has the Mongols conquer Persia as well. At that point, he pretty much decides that his role in life is to unite the world under Mongol rule.

Longer story short, Genghis Khan and his descendants conquer half of the known world, from Russia to Korea to the Middle East and so on. Sounds pretty hellish, right?

Not really. Life under the Mongols was actually pretty sweet. You could do whatever your local lords permitted and the Mongols hardly cared as long as it didn't get in the way of trade, which they taxed. They were also pretty brutal, as you could imagine, and so highwaymen all but disappeared under their domain. It was said you could carry a golden plate above your head from one corner of the Mongol Empire to the other without being accosted even once. As for the Mongols themselves, they were content to live outside cities in their yurts and carry on their herding ways, as long as you paid taxes. They were also shamanists (where gods were tied to specific lands), so there was complete religious freedom in the Mongol Empire, which is actually quite rare among history's empires.

So to answer your question, the Mongols - for the span of their empire, at least (until the USSR forced them to settle) - never really "evolved" from a "vagrant" civilization. Herding worked well for them personally and as long as you paid your taxes the Mongols ruled with quite a light touch. They moved people like administrators and engineers wherever they were needed because the Mongols themselves didn't care for that kind of thing, but they valued people that could do what the Mongols could not. In that case, this hypothetical "middle ages" level of civilization wouldn't even need to be established by the ruling empire.

I know this contradicts the idea of a human-hunting monster in the original question, but I hope I could help illustrate an alternative form of society that served its people well.


We would most likely have died out

What are you are saying is that the genus Homo of the Earth would have forever been hunter-gatherers and also been forced to remain nomadic.

This in turn means that the Neolithic Revolution would never have taken place. Without the Neolithic Revolution, it is unlikely that we would ever have evolved — biologically and socially — to the point where we are today. And whenever we were hit by calamities, such as extreme seasons leading to food shortage, we would have been decimated (as did happen).

So in all likelihood we, as Homo Sapiens, would most likely have joined our other Homo cousins and died out too.

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    $\begingroup$ Even pre-Sapiens Homo was a pretty successful beast. Homo erectus appears to have colonized basically the entire tropical and subtropical old world, and used fire and stone tools. With such a widespread range and generalist capabilities, it seems unlikely that Homo would go extinct for a long time. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Oct 14 '16 at 11:55
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion I would not call having 4 out of 5 branches of the family tree go extinct "successful". There were times when Homo was down to just a few thousand individuals. Without the Neolithic Revolution, and being forced to remain nomadic, and with the added pressure of being hunted as prey, it is very likely that the next calamity would have knocked us out completely. Only with the added safety and security in the form of permanent settlements and agriculture could we begin to form civilizations. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 14 '16 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKarnerfors 4 out of 5 branches went extinct because they were pushed into extinction by the last branch; which is pretty clearly the case for at least Neanderthals and Denisovans. Also, an alternate explanation for the population bottleneck is that a sub-population of a few thousand because the first humans to develop language, and expanded rapidly displacing the rest of the people. Interbreeding might be minimal, after all once language and culture develop, who wants to mate with a dumb beast? $\endgroup$ – kingledion Oct 14 '16 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ Kingledion: Two branches killed by a superior predator, and question asks about introducing a predator that hunts the last branch. Seems like you only help Karnerors' argument. $\endgroup$ – SRM Oct 14 '16 at 14:50
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    $\begingroup$ "I didn't say we would have forever been hunter-gatherers" The only other option is farming. And that's settling down which you said we couldn't do. Or do you mean to imply that people could spend a day tending a farm in one place, then travel the next day to a different farm, tend that one for a day, and so on; coming back to each of their farms every few days? $\endgroup$ – Shufflepants Oct 14 '16 at 15:51

We would have found a way to wipe the predators out

Over the past 45,000, we (as a species) have systematically wiped out any major species we've come across - either as a food resource or to compete for resources.

This may be intentionally, as a consequence of us wiping out the natural prey for this super-predator, or from climate change (humans adapt to climate change more readily than other larger animals).

Given our natural desire to kill things, it was inevitable that we'd create enough of a dominance over the environment to settle.

The other alternative is that this super-predator would have wiped out any proto-human species before it had a chance to evolve.

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    $\begingroup$ I wanted to lower human race in the food chain and wanted to supresse all fighting means and putting them in an relations like Antelops and Lions. Antelops didn't get wiped out by Lions and didn't wiped them out either. $\endgroup$ – Porunga Oct 14 '16 at 10:24
  • $\begingroup$ I can see that, but evolution wouldn't have worked in the way you're describing, for the reasons pointed out by Michael in his answer. $\endgroup$ – Snow Oct 14 '16 at 10:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Porunga Antelopes do not have a breeding cycle like humans with our 9 months of gestation, over a year before we can even walk on our own, at least 10 years before we can provide for ourselves and 10-15 years to reach sexual maturity. In short: humans are not nearly as fecund as Antelopes. Also Antelopes are Bovidaes and as such never really had much problem with providing for themselves since they can digest cellulose, i.e. any kind of grass they come along. I see what you want with your story, but you have some pretty tough obstacles to overcome in order to suspend disbelief $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 14 '16 at 10:49
  • $\begingroup$ I'd recommend devising a geological event that creates a land bridge between two previously isolated land masses. One side with Neolithic humans, the other with the super predators. Then postulate who'd win. Even then, I still believe that humans would require complete dominance in order to settle and create settlements and technology. $\endgroup$ – Snow Oct 14 '16 at 10:59
  • $\begingroup$ I like Pete's plan! Let humans develop as top predator, THEN introduce the thing that makes them go nomadic. Much more plausible. $\endgroup$ – SRM Oct 14 '16 at 14:47

Some Stone Age people were already very nomadic. Many years ago I had a conversation with Dr Erik Trinkaus in which he told me that the leg bones of ice age humans from Europe & the Near East were very well developed. From the size of muscles which would have been attached to those bones, Trinkaus estimated those ice age people were walking an average of 20km a day. He also said that he'd never seen a skeleton with a leg broken badly enough to be unable to walk. If you couldn't keep up, you were abandoned by the group. The injury that lots of the people DID have was repetitive strain injuries to the hands and wrists from dragging heavy objects - probably dragging animal skins with heavy-ish stuff on them, like small children, tents, meat and so on.

However, that 20km is an average. The people could and did stay in one place for a while. If the salmon are running, you stay by the river and catch fish. If the reindeer are migrating, you ambush a bunch of them and spend several days butchering your kills, drying the meat, starting to tan the hides, and so on. If there is a blizzard raging, you stay put in shelter or you die.

What applies to the humans also applies to the predator. If the humans can't stay put for more than 48 hours, then neither can the predator. Unless it is a Terminator with a fusion plant powering it or some sort of Hollywood movie monster which ignores all laws of biology or physics, the predator will have to do all the things that lions, tigers and bears do - mate, raise young, spend time eating its kill. If it is not dedicating enough time to that, it will die out. If its babies can't keep up or be carried, it will have to stop following people to care for them. And if the babies are vulnerable in any way - say it lays eggs and abandons them - the humans will murder those babies all to death as soon as they figure it out.

The predators can't follow every group, all the time. 100 humans are being followed by 2 predators. If they split into 3 groups, one of those groups does not have a predator following it!

The humans cannot have any technology which requires significant time and effort to produce the end product. They can't make pottery, smelt metal, weave cloth, tan leather, or even bake bread (those loaves need to prove overnight, and grinding grain into flour takes ages). They'd probably even lose some technology which those ice age people mentioned above have - no time to mine for the best flint or heat the flint nodules in a fire to make them into more workable stone. No time for cave paintings. No time to tan leather to a decent standard which will last a long time. Humans are almost reduced to a chimpanzee level of technology.

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    $\begingroup$ "If they split into 3 groups, one of those groups does not have a predator following it!" Now I'm imagining The Blob, dividing like an amoeba to track all three groups, until eventually there's one Blob hunting each human, locked onto its scent, giving new meaning to the phrase "death catching up to you." :-) $\endgroup$ – SRM Oct 14 '16 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ @SRM Aha! The Blob has fallen for our Cunning Plan. Now it is in small enough bits to deal with. $\endgroup$ – DrBob Oct 14 '16 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ "No time to tan leather to a decent standard which will last a long time. Humans are almost reduced to a chimpanzee level of technology." What if humans invented a vehicles, like a caravan (and methods to build those in less than 2 days ? Couldn't they manage building vagrants factories ? $\endgroup$ – Porunga Oct 14 '16 at 18:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Porunga Building a cart would take a lot longer than 2 days. You need to chop the tree, season the wood, do the carpentry, etc. $\endgroup$ – DrBob Oct 17 '16 at 16:29


You would see societies of nomads like many that are still around today, though it would depend on the nature of the elements preventing people from settling.

Population Size and Communication

Technological development would be dependent of the population size, the pressure to develop, and how much communication there is between humans. The Inuits, as a great example, have some wonderfully sophisticated means for surviving. I've heard their clothing compared to an astronaut's.


Even if the nomads wander about a bit, and can't settle (for long), it's likely they'll run into humans from time to time, have regular meet ups in a general area, develop some signalling systems to help them find each other. They'll then be able to trade commodities and technology, celebrate, marry, and perhaps war. This does depend both on how warlike other humans are, and what kind of threat is preventing them from settling.


If the threat is intelligent, signalling and meeting up will get harder. If it is constant, then humans may be ran too ragged to survive or develop under the constant pressure. The right amount of pressure will accelerate development, too much will destroy it. Humans could be expected to learn the ins and outs of this threat, if they can survive long enough.

Conclusion, and Mobility

How long it will take to get to middle ages tech is unfortunately too hard to say without knowing the above details. It will also be fairly random as to when (many developments are based on coincidence). Some items of middle age tech, like large furnaces, would not be possible to move around with a nomadic group. You could have stationary furnaces/facilities that a group revisits periodically to make use of. Otherwise, they'll be technologically stuck on processes which you can carry with you or finish in a short span of time (however long they can settle).

Hope this was helpful to you.

  • $\begingroup$ This was my thought too, but I'm not sure if any nomads moved around as frequently as every 48 hours. $\endgroup$ – Laurel Oct 14 '16 at 16:13
  • $\begingroup$ 48 hours? Hmm... that's pretty frequent. I'm afraid I don't know details of nomads that move around that frequently. It does depend how far they need to move, and whether they always need to move that often. $\endgroup$ – J. Doe Oct 14 '16 at 17:45

Part I: Humans would migrate and settle

Humans are remarkably adaptable to radically different environments; most other large animals aren't. We would instinctively or even incidentally take advantage of that.

Ravenous tropical/subtropical predator that relentlessly hunts humans? Nomadic populations would migrate towards the poles, settling in freezing arctic climates. Dressing themselves in thick hides and furs, and hunting lesser arctic wildlife, humans would soon adapt to an arctic way of life, while the bone-chilling cold would deter any significant incursion.

Polar bears on steroids? The reverse would happen; humans would move into dense tropical jungles and arid desert areas where the creature's fur and fat that enable its survival in arctic regions would rapidly exhaust and kill it. Humans would wear minimal clothing and develop lightweight and portable shelters; in arid climates water would become a commodity.

Vicious jungle beasts? As with the bears, humans would find arid climates to their liking. Storage of water and development of temporary/portable shelters would allow them to adapt, while the unavailability of water would swiftly dehydrate the (likely high metabolism) predator. The only advantage it might have here is if it discovers that humans have water skins, and swiftly tracks from settlement to settlement, tearing into their water supplies after attacking to rehydrate.

Part II: Humans would kill the predator

Once humans settled in a climate hostile to the predator, they would have time to start developing more advanced tools (including activities such as mining and smelting, to start producing metals)... and sooner or later their collective interests would turn towards killing the predator.

I would be entirely unsurprised if unrelated settlements (which would naturally evolve into villages and then cities over the course of generations) start getting the same idea in different geographic locations, and then begin fighting back, squeezing the predator population from multiple sides until it eventually collapses.

Thanks to communications skills, storytelling, and eventually the written word, humans would definitely hold a grudge against this one animal they cannot dominate or domesticate, and as technological advancements bought them more free time they would devote that time to conquering the beast. Between the human ability for strategization and group tactics, and development of specialized hunting tools and traps, sooner or later it would find itself on the losing end of the dominance order.

Part IIIa: The predator would go extinct

Due to the long and antagonistic relationship between humans and this super-predator, once humans developed the technology and strategy to fight back, they would likely make concentrated pushes against it, focusing on destroying nests/killing young. Initially it'd just be to reduce the thread posed, but once we securely have the upper hand there's no reason to leave it to chance, and we'd continue pushing until it posed no threat any more. At best, if we've evolved socially and technologically far enough by this point, we might keep a few specimens captive in zoos, and the beast would live on in stories told to keep little children in line.


Part IIIb: Humans would domesticate it

Humans like to put animals to use. Whether raising them for food, transportation, or other utility -- even sport, humans have a long and rather successful history of domesticating animals. As soon as they finished with Part I, they would probably start domesticating lesser animals, and eventually some industrious humans would get the bright idea to start domesticating the super-predator.

Some cultures might domesticate it for sport, pitting them against one another. Others would domesticate it for defense or war, unleashing them on the enemy to cause major casualties or at least serious distractions. Still others might train it as a hunting animal -- if it were successful enough at hunting resourceful humans, it no doubt has attributes well suited for hunting. Repurposing these hunting and tracking skills to exterminate lesser threats (wolves, coyotes, and others that interfere with domestic livestock), counter greater threats (any wild super-predators still surviving), or hunting wild prey (tracking and perhaps chasing big game) could prove very useful to advancing human civilizations.

  • $\begingroup$ And if the predator likes the continent we are on, we make basic boats and go migrate to an island like the UK or Japan. $\endgroup$ – Anketam Oct 14 '16 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ Yup, islands will work well too, as long as either a) the predator can't swim, or b) we can quickly develop vessels that can outdistance the predator, and go to islands beyond its swimming reach. Obviously scenario (a) is safer for us! $\endgroup$ – Doktor J Oct 14 '16 at 19:39

Given the base assumption that the Ancestors, Neanderthal and Denisovans are not at the top of the food chain but apparently are still human level intelligence, you are setting up a condition where Homo Sapiens will begin to evolve into something else. Indeed there could be several "something elses" developing because of the evolutionary pressures being exerted on the Hominids.

Looking at how some of our other cousins deal with similar situations, some Hominids might develop a social structure similar to Baboons, where up to 80% of the young males interpose themselves between a marauding leopard and the rest of the troop. Hominids using this strategy will experience some pretty extreme dimorphism, as young males become much larger and more aggressive in order to successfully defend the troop.

Going the other way, Hominids stuck in environments like the Great Plains or Steppe might evolve to become more fecund, in order to have enough members survive to adulthood. These Hominids will have litters of babies, short gestation periods and young which can rapidly become self sufficient. It is a fair guess the tradeoff will be energy intensive adaptation like intelligence will be dropped in favour of instinct and more rapid development.

Finally, the Ancestors themselves might be able to establish themselves in relatively secure environments, either so harsh that the predators are unlikely to follow (Tundra, high arctic, deep deserts) or defendable redoubts (mountains or areas ringed by mountains, islands) where they have a much better chance of seeing, isolating and killing predators, and keeping areas clear. There is a possibility that the selection here is going to be for greater intelligence, so teams of hunters will be able to successfully patrol their areas, communicate better and design and build better tools to deal with the predatory species.

Once again, there will be some selective pressures due to environment (Ancestors living for generations in the high arctic will come to resemble the modern Inuit people, for example), and if the period of isolation is long enough, the Ancestors themselves will no longer be able to interbreed, so creating multiple species of Humans.


My source for this answer is the excellent Guns, Germs, and Steel.

How do we reach "Middle Ages level"?

The foundation of a Middle Ages society (and really, any society beyond hunter-gatherer levels) is surplus. Each peasant farmer produces more than he needs to feed himself, allowing a permanent class of bureaucrats (lords, priests) and specialists (soldiers, craftsmen) to exist. Without bureaucrats, you can't have large scale organization (beyond 150 people). Without specialists, you lack technological advances, conquest, etc.

How is the farmer able to generate this surplus? The answer is crops. Domesticated agriculture produces a ton of food, and that food can be stored easily in granaries. What's more, this food can be generated reliably - a hunter-gatherer might go out to hunt deer and come back at the end of the day having caught zero deer. The farmer's wheat, on the other hand, won't run away from him.

How do we acquire surplus without crops?

Many societies practiced a hybrid of hunter-gathering and farming - when they migrated through a promising area they took care of the plants (by clearing out the small ones and weeds and making room for the big plants to grow) and when they migrated through that area later in the season, they collected the fruits of their labour. But this only works for a relatively small tribe.

Your civilization needs animal husbandry. Horses are super-useful both as sources of meat, and as a way to move your junk around and stay ahead of the predators. Cows, pigs, chickens, and camelids are also useful as mobile sources of meat and muscle. These animals are also a great way of transforming your garbage into food. Even dogs are edible, and they help you hunt on top of that. Your civilization may also need to resort to cannibalism if they cannot acquire enough of these animals - why waste a perfectly good dead body? Disease is a far-off concern if you die of hunger otherwise.

But this is not enough. The Mongols are an example of a nomadic society that was very successful, but they were able to survive by skimming off settled, feudal societies. Your people will have nothing to raid and pillage, no palaces to sack, no granaries to loot. Dependent on gathering for any kind of vegetables, your people will have a very strict population cap, and their societies will never be as large as medieval ones.

Forget about the bronze age

Ever tried to load a smithy onto a wagon? Even if your people could gather metal ores from surface deposits, they would not have great facilities for processing it. Your metal tools would be rare and rubbish. Wood, leather, stone, and bone would dominate.

  • $\begingroup$ This ^. If everyone is nomadic all the time, you can forget the middle ages, technologically humans never make it out of the stone age. $\endgroup$ – Shufflepants Oct 14 '16 at 16:00

We farm and work in loop groups

We need to grow food to have a large surplus of food to allow for civilization. We have to move every 48 hours and can't return in the near future (at least a few weeks).

If it is safe for others to be in these areas then our crops that are left unguarded they will be eaten and destroyed either by animals or other humans.

We will evolve to have rotating groups.

Say we can't return for 4 weeks (then we need 14 sites) we stay and work and farm at a site for 48 hours then move to the next one.

If the reason we move is because the old site becomes unsafe, we just leave it and assume our crops will not be touched by other humans, we just come back and get them 4 weeks later. Perhaps hiding or fencing off our food and tools to protect them.

If the area is safe for other humans just not us then we split the tribe into 14 groups. Each works and guards a site for 2 days and then moves on to the next one. That way all sites are guarded at all times

The cycle avoids us having to carry all our possessions with us and still lets agriculture and construction develop.

We would develop a huge sense of trust since most or our possessions are guarded by someone else most of the time.


Without a technological basis, your "humanity" would crumble.

First, consider that even nomadic civilization have more time to settle than your requirement, and most of those lived at least partly as scavenger or raider upon settled civilization.

A question, first : are you talking about a single civilization or the whole humanity ?

From what you wrote, I'll talk about the first case.
European and Asian middle age technology would be impossible as you can't mine for ore. In fact metal would be impossible to obtain and work with. You need a bit more than 36 hours (plus sleep) to discover metalworking or any important craftsmanship.
But that's the least of your worries, some civilization did well without metal... until they met people with steel weapons.

Your problem is two fold :

  • Death rate at birth would be huge : human female are not supposed to give birth then ran around chased by a predator attracted to the smell of blood. Not much would give birth more than... once. And babies are not supposed to be shaken in a frantic run in the minutes that follow their birth. Also, the permanent stress (for both male and female) of predator attack will simply prevent many pregnancy.
  • You can't have evolved craft without thinking and working calmly for more than 36 hours (because you also need sleeping)

What you need is a partly sedentary humanity that has to give up this aspect of most civilization for... reasons.
Many early discovery, linked to settlement, are mandatory to the survival of humanity. At the bare minimum, with domesticated animals, you can put your pregnant women on a carriage and have them survive pregnancy. With big enough carriage, you can get some kind of craftsmanship that takes more than 36 hours work. Oh, and you shouldn't have a pregnant woman ride on horse back, if you want her to stay pregnant.
But you need that sedentary phase or longer resting phases. Maybe there are killer clouds that people have to flee, but those clouds are seasonal ?

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    $\begingroup$ "until they met people with steel weapons" is irrelevant in this world because no one would ever develop steel weapons $\endgroup$ – msouth Oct 14 '16 at 15:20

This doesn't directly answer the question, I suppose, but you could look at already imagined cultures that are vagrants/nomadic. Specifically, I'm talking about the quarian race in the Mass Effect series.

Physiologically, they've evolved a weak immune system (being forced to live on spacecraft for hundreds of years in clean environments could do that) and depend on biosuits in foreign environments. I think that'd be specific to a space-faring civilization. A nomadic civilization bound to a planet may have the opposite effect; being exposed to a wide variety of pathogens and allergens may cause the species' immune systems to be quite robust.

Culturally, they've developed in a way that nomadic cultures would value. They have a 'coming-of-age' tradition where one leaves the Migrant Fleet to search for something of good use to the Fleet (i.e. resources, ships, technology, etc), or must perform acts that would benefit the fleet (i.e. defeating geth, the quarian 'mortal enemy'). They also, as a species, developed an affinity for technology since they are required to build and fix what they need when they need it (especially crucial in the case of an emergency failure of a spaceship).

This kind of evolution only occurred because the quarians were at a technological point to have already developed space-faring technology, so it would depend on the situation of your hypothetical species.

You should sit down and make a list of questions about what nomadic cultures need, and answer how they'd get them. Like:

  • What resources do they need? How do they get them?
  • What cultural traits would be condemned/praised?
  • What skill traits would be condemned/praised?
  • Do they have enemies that cause problems? Allies that provide solutions?
  • If they have enemies that cause problems, how can they solve these problems?

This approach will help you build a well developed culture/species for immersive enjoyment.

I guess this kind of does answer your question, but definitely check out the quarian entry on the Mass Effect Wiki for a better understanding of that particular nomadic civilization.


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