Great Migrations

Great Migrations

Most conversations about Great Migrations have to do with immigrant populations on the move now, or in the recent past; but people have always been on the move, from the earliest times leaving Africa.  Why do people leave their homelands?  For what purpose were the Great Migrations?  Better hunting? Better fishing? More food sources? Climate Change? Or are some folks more adventurous than others?  I like to ask my students, “Why do you think people in the New World did not seek to cross the ocean, but those in the Old World did?  Why did some look at vast expanses of water as a threat or a deterrent where others saw a wonder to be explored?”

It is very fascinating to study human activities, especially cultural activities, because culture invents the technology to travel great distances; to be able to carry and support people, animals, and needed gear and supplies to far away places.  We don’t know the answers to the questions about human beings noted above.  We can only thank those who have studied the Great Migrations, which have led to human cultural diversity.  From historical texts and maps, we learn not so much why people decided to move, but where they decided to establish new settlements. Actually observing, visually on a map, the paths that people have followed over time establishes a foundation for studying the Global Villages and their contemporary inhabitants.

Migrations and Maps

Of course, people have not always been on the move voluntarily; and there are many IDPs in the world today (Internally Displaced Persons).  These are people that are forced to move because of war, disasters, political upheavals, famine, poverty or a myriad of other reasons.

The maps on this page do not show the reasons for the migrations, but these great migrations, whether ancient, in the recent past, or in the present, have impacted the local populations where these wanderers, travelers, or IDP’s have eventually settled.  Click on the maps for larger views.

Map 1.

Ancient Africa:

Migrations have a profound effect on local cultures worldwide; another reason that gaining Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 10.54.06 AMunderstanding of “where others come from” is so important.  As we know, “where others are coming from” does not mean only geographical location.

We need to understand the difficulties that displaced populations of people, as well as those voluntarily moving, have in trying to acculturate themselves to new environments.

However, it is just as important to understand “where the local people are coming from” as well.  There are always two sides to every story, situation, or circumstance, but when it comes to diversity, there are many, many sides to consider.

Studying culture gives us alternative views, and hopefully more positive behaviors when encountering those who have left their homelands.  After all, in our globalized world, the chances are at some point we may be the “other person” as well as the “local person.”

Map 2.                                                                                    Maps 3.

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Map 4.

The first four maps of Africa show early migration routes.shows one of the most ancient migrations, which took people to Australia by some means of water transportation.  We know that boat technology is known from about 40,000 to 50,000 years ago.  Here we see the origins of the indigenous people of Australia, that we refer to as Aborigines.

Path of original AustraliansA few other maps here illustrate more of the same patterns of human migrations, which have spread both genes and culture across the world’s inhabitable landscapes.

Map 5.

Shows European migrations over several thousand years.  YBP on this map is Years Before Present.


Map 6.

The round globe shows the migrations of Polynesia, which resulted in the Maori becoming the indigenous people of New Zealand.

Polynesian Migrations of Maori Origins

Map 7.


Map 7 shows major human migrations since 1500.

Now that you have been introduced to the many historical migrations of peoples, it becomes more clear how culture regions have changed over time.  You can use this page as a reference point when studying each of the 11 Global Villages.

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