Nomads: The Wanderers Who Shaped Our World by Anthony Sattin - review by Bijan Omrani

Bijan Omrani

On the Road

Nomads: The Wanderers Who Shaped Our World


John Murray 358pp £25

This book will be a powerful antidote for those suffering from lockdown inertia. It offers a sweeping history of nomadism from prehistory to the modern age, but in spirit it is more than this. It is also a poetic reminder that humans should not be seduced into the slothful ease of passing all of their lives within four walls, rejoicing in the accumulation of material wealth. They need also to spend time on the road, wandering, travelling light.

Anthony Sattin’s history of nomadism is based on the premise that nomads ‘have long been confined to the anecdotes and afterthoughts of our writers and histories’. As such, their contributions to the development of human progress are often overlooked, argues Sattin. Western historians have looked down on them as they have tended not to leave grand archaeological or literary remains, writing them off as savage and barbarous. Historians have failed to credit the sophisticated but less tangible nature of their cultures and the profound impact that these have had on the sedentary world.

Sattin aims to give due prominence to nomads’ neglected achievements, many of which came before the sedentary world had developed. By way of example, he points to Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Anatolia, an ancient site circled with monumental carved stone pillars dating from 9500 BC. Recent (though disputed)

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