Consequences of travel to human history

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Crowds walking Broadway NYC 2010

Sunset crowds on Broadway near Times Square in New York City.

People move around.

Archaeology and history show this repeatedly. People don’t stay in one place.

Certainly, each individual may travel more or less, and to greater or lesser distances. But, as a species, people circulate.

This is trickier to contemplate, but why do people move around?

Certainly, among the many motivations is economic exchange—people also tend to want things they don’t have—different foods, special items from afar—other…stuff. People also go places out of what is close to simple curiousity—to find out for themselves what’s there. Here’s the SGA’s ArchaeoBus at the Georgia National Fair in Perry in 2010; consider how far people came to attend this Fair—and tour the ArchaeoBus!

ArchaeoBus at GA Nat Fair 2010

People also tend to go on pilgrimages—that is, travel to a distant (or not so distant) place with religious or moral significance. Common pilgrimage destinations today include Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela, Mecca, the Potala Palace at Lhasa in Nepal (traditional home of the Dalai Lama), and Bodh Gaya in northeastern India (where Budda attained enlightenment). Destinations in the ancient world include the Greek city of Delphi, and ritual places across what are now Egypt and Persia.

Informal outdoor wedding 2010

We also move around for more personal reasons, as with those who have traveled to attend this informal outdoor wedding.

The act of moving around, whatever its motivation, means that traveling people see new sights and meet other people with different habits, foods, and ideas. What are the implications of this?

Do you agree with the first sentence, which asserts that people, as a group, are mobile? Either way, what are the repercussions of people being more mobile or more sedentary? How has this played out over time, including among archaeologically known peoples?

If you’re interested in this topic, you may also be interested in this story on this website, called Thinking roads.