World History and the Meaning of Being Human – Physical and Geographical Features and Where We Call Home Today – by Felicity Byrd. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

World History and the Meaning of Being Human – Physical and Geographical Features and Where We Call Home Today – by Felicity Byrd. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

All across history, humans have made distinctive choices as to where they settle and live. Even nomadic peoples made choices as to where they settled for periods of time. Most commonly humans can be seen settling near areas with predictable water supplies, fertile lands, and areas that they see as opportunity. There are examples of this in the settlements in South/Southwest Asia River Basins, in the Andes Mountains in South America, and even right next to home where people have settled on Lake Superior.

One distinctive trait that it seems all humans look for when choosing where to settle, is fertile lands. Much like the Chavín peoples choose to settle in “the steep mountainsides and deep fertile valleys of the Andes Mountains”, settlements along Asia River basins, such as in central Southwest Asia at the basin of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, had the same idea (Tignor, p.186). The river basins “formed beds of rich alluvial soils” which could provide a “stable food supply” for the growing populations of the city-dwellers. While both the Chavín peoples and the dwellers on the Asia River basins sought fertile lands, they each grew different kinds of crops. The Chavín peoples benefited from the valley floors of the mountainsides that “yielded tropical and subtropical produce”, maize, and potatoes, while the settlers in Asia relied “on intensive irrigation agriculture” and the “availability of domesticated plants” (Tignor, p. 45, 186). Growing up on Lake Superior my entire life, I can say the exact same concept can be seen across the lands around Lake Superior as in the past. One major plus of Lake Superior is that it creates fertile soil around it, which is rich in minerals. I grew up in the country, just about a half hour drive outside of the city of Superior, and as you drive out that way, all you see is farm after farm. The bulk of the agriculture where I grew up is mostly hay, corn, apples, and different berries wide scale, and then most families grow their own vegetable gardens in the summertime. Fertile land is typically found near areas of rich water supply, which is also a characteristic humans can be seen across history searching for.

My home of Lake Superior is the largest fresh water great lake in North America, providing us with a predictable drinking source, areas of fertile land, and a promise of a rich animal population. The Lake alone is home to at least 88 species of fish and there can be vast bird populations as well (Linder, 2019). Closer towards my home in the country, there are large populations of white tailed deer and wild turkeys, as well as many farms with domesticated animals such as cows, chickens, pigs, and goats, many of which all serve a purpose to help the human population grow and thrive. Much the same, the Chavín peoples relied on llamas which “produced wool and dung”, the wool could provide various different purposes such as fabric, and the dung could be used “as fertilizer and fuel” (Tignor, p. 186). The llamas later even served the purpose to transport goods and materials as well. The early cities along the Asia River Basins can also be seen using the same thinking concept, in search for “water for irrigation, and availability of domesticated plants and animals” because with a rich water supply, and fertile land, they would be able to “produce agricultural surpluses to feed the city dwellers” and ultimately provide for and grow the human population.

One last characteristic humans across history can be seen searching for, is areas that they see as opportunity. For example, because Lake Superior is rich in minerals, early settlers were able to mine iron, silver, copper, nickel, and even gold in places. The city of Superior also contains a large oil refinery, which supports much of the economic trade of goods and materials for the city. The lake is also a major area of opportunity with the availability of shipping ports to transport and trade goods across vast distances, including the transport of both oil and grain, which are two goods Superior is highly known for. In the Andes mountains of South America, the Chavín people in history sought out a home with “ecological diversity” which “enabled them to find all necessities close at hand”, they had the availability of “precious stones” which helped them to facilitate “some long-distance trade” and also enabled them to produce “elaborate stone carvings” (Tignor, p. 186). They also were able to develop “advanced techniques to weave fine cotton textiles”, and several other techniques that all arose from this land of opportunity (Tignor, p. 186).

All in the all, the physical and geographical choices that humans have made across history says several distinct things about the values of humans. Humans value lands that have a steady, predictable water supply, fertile lands that can help them to develop agriculture and support growing populations, and they value lands of opportunity. Even though the examples I have written about are in 3 different places around the world, they all have overwhelming similarities, but also unique differences in the certain ways they were able to grow and thrive off of the lands they chose to call home. I think humans in our time today can look at this history and use it to learn that physical geographical played a major role in human civilization. If humans had not had the burning instinct to search for areas that would provide survival, they would have never been an increasing growth in population, that led to civilization on the wide-scale that can be seen worldwide today. Our ancestors chose places to call home that they saw as overall areas of opportunity and growth, and those choices relied heavily on distinct physical geographical.

Linder, D. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2019, from
Tignor, R. L. (2018). Worlds Together, Worlds Apart (5th ed., Vol. 1). New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

From Professor Liang’s Spring 2019 World History I [Online] class, Felicity is a Nursing student.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at)

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at

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31 responses to “World History and the Meaning of Being Human – Physical and Geographical Features and Where We Call Home Today – by Felicity Byrd. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

    • Averie Fredrickson-Seibert

      You did a wonderful job explaining the ways that humans decided on geographical location. Like you said, humans seem to be drawn to bodies of water. One of the most water centric civilizations were the Egyptians. The Nile was of the utmost importance to their survival. In Worlds Together, Worlds Apart, Tignor writes “The Nile’s predictability as the source of life and abundance shaped the character of the people and their culture” (Tignor, 58).

    • Elizabeth Mirkin

      Hi Felicity.
      I loved your article, and was very interested in the content. It makes perfect sense for our ancestors to find and utilize pieces of land that have the natural resources to make living easier. You are right when you say that people are drawn to places near bodies of water because they hold so much opportunity. I have lived in Minnesota my whole life so I know what it’s like having bodies of water everywhere, but so many places in the world don’t have that luxury. Your examples of living in Superior do a great job showing that as well. No matter where people choose to settle, they will exploit their resources as much as possible so it is beneficial living in a place with things like fertile soil, fresh water, space,etc. Thank you for your article!

    • hannah Desmond

      your article is very well written and informative, your research on the meaning of being human is very clear; that humans have a “burning instinct.” Your research actually relates to one of the main topics in professor Liang’s political science class, the affects and effects of globalization. You mentioned how the Chavin people would domesticate llamas for multiple uses, for fuel, clothing, and trading goods. Because the Chavin peoples were able to trade their products with consumers, marketing and business can evolve into a broader spectrum. As you mentioned, early civilizations settling in the lake superior area were drawn there because of the opportunity it held. An advancement in globalization through food, agriculture, product making, and trade.

    • Levi Scott

      This article demonstrates the commonality between people. Interestingly, not only does it connect the people in the modern world, it connects us with people from the past. It highlights humans’ basic needs and wants. It had me reflecting on what I really need, and that’s an area with opportunity, which tends to correlate with land by water, and surrounding myself with people with similar goals. It created a sense of gratitude for my ancestors, as if it had not been for them, I could be living in an area with limited access to water. This, as you could imagine, would be a large hinderance on my life goals and tends to be problematic for societies. Thank you for your thoughts!

    • Meghan McFarling

      I always forget to think of land as an opportunity, and I always take the beauty of land and nature for granted. Land is a huge reason for immigration, as you know. Many Irish people left Ireland during the potato famine, people move from Minnesota down to Florida for the ocean and the weather, etc.. It’s a blessing that we live in a place with such incredible resources, but it would also be a shame to have pipeline mining take these resources away and to destroy the Minnesota nature we know and love. Hopefully we will find a way to use our resources in a more concious manner.

  1. Natalie A Johnson

    Kristeljei, this is such a well-written article. Duluth is a wonderful place and will always hold a special place in my heart. I think what you said about the land being fertile and people moving towards water is very true. I also noticed that the Chavin people build their communities up to the mountainsides. (Tignor 186). Although Duluth is not on a mountain, the community did build its way up the side of the hill.

  2. Allison Einck

    Thank you for sharing! I enjoyed reading about your comparisons to Lake Superior and bodies of water in history. As you stated, the physical and geographical choices that humans made demonstrate that we go where there is opportunity. For example, the Silk Road allowed for major opportunities to travel and move goods. According to Tignor et al. (2018), most of the trade was small and it was often where merchants exchanged frankincense and myrrh for copper, tin, iron, gemstones, and textiles (p. 224). In addition, it allowed religions to spread. Buddhists, Zoroastrianists, Syrian Christians, and Muslims spread to other regions translating their scriptures and modifying their beliefs (p. 225).

  3. Sarah Symanietz

    I could not agree more with the content you shared. I am mostly German, so my ancestors most likely chose to settle in central Minnesota due to the similar soil conditions. They mainly grew crops such as potatoes, and chose their place of settlement due to the soil conditions, similar to the dwellers on the Asia River. Now it seems that it is more typical to choose a place of residency based on the school district, a job, or safety of the neighborhood. It is amazing to spot the differences and the evolution of how humans choose where to live. Additionally, it is amazing to see the advancements in farming over time: “metal tools like axes and plows, combined with heavier livestock to pull plows through the root-infested sods of northern Europe, led to massive deforestation” (Tignor 377). The strategic choice of location for farming allowed for the advancement in farming techniques.

  4. Kasey Kalthoff

    Hi Felicity,
    I am also reading the textbook “Worlds Together Worlds Apart” and I find it interesting how many concepts we have seen on humans and their adaptability to not only the land but the world. Yes, we tend to flock towards lands that are fertile and can provide food. However, sometimes that environment can change or a natural disaster may occur. That is the beauty of humans, we can adapt to those changes. In our textbook, the pastoral nomads concentrated on animal herding rather than farming because often the soil that they were on was unfit for planting (Tignor et al., 2018, p. 48). Not only can natural disasters happen, but things such as plagues can as well. Recently we learned about the black plague and how it wrought devastation throughout Afro-Eurasia (Tignor et al., 2018, p. 408). It is amazing how we can make opportunity out of something that may seem impossible.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Kasey K.

  5. Anissa Jones

    Hi Felicity!
    I really enjoyed reading your article, as I can relate to much of it myself growing up in Duluth! You made some really great comparisons between various cultures & their geographical landscapes with Lake Superior. Related to geographical landmarks, I just read about some in Worlds Together, Worlds Apart. Near a lake in Istanbul, there was a beautifully laid out palace called Topkapi Palace. It was built to show the sultan’s power, and was made to reflect, “a vision of Istanbul as the center of the world” (TIgnor et al., 2018, p. 414). I wish we could travel back in time and be able to see how amazing places like this (and ones you mentioned) really are in person!

  6. Hannah Holien

    Hi Felicity!
    I really enjoyed reading your post, I felt that you did a really great job at finding similarities not only to different locations around the world but also in different time periods! In “Worlds Together, Worlds Apart” it talks about how humans adapted to different farming techniques as their migrated to new lands. The book states, “What is important is that even as most communities adapted to the settled agricultural economy, they did not abandon basic survival strategies of hunting and gathering” (Tignor et al., p 31). This shows that adaption to different agricultural climates was something humans did throughout history. I am sure it took trial and error to figure out what crops grew best here in Duluth because of its unique climate! Thanks for your thoughts!
    – Hannah Holien

  7. Grace Macor

    Hi, Felicity!

    Duluth and Lake Superior holds a special place in my heart as well. Although I often think of Lake Superior as great beauty, it serves many other purposes. Duluth, Minnesota is not the only city that was built next to water. In “Worlds Together Worlds Apart,” Tignor et al. discusses the world’s first cities. Tignor et al. states, “During the first half of the fourth millennium BCE, a demographic transformation occurred in the southern part of the Tigris-Euphrates River basin. This was an area stretching from present day Baghdad to the Persian Gulf” (2018, p. 51). The river basin, located on the Asian continent, was essential in the supplying water for survival. Throughout time, we can note that many great cities were built next to water, and this is not a coincidence!

    Thanks for posting!

  8. Tessa Erickson-Thoemke

    Hi Felicity,
    I enjoyed reading your article about the places in which people chose to settle on. We can see many instances where sources of water are necessary for successful establishments. You provided some great comparisons between the Asian River basins and Lake Superior. I like your comment about humans seeking areas of opportunity. Even today we are constantly seeking environments that will assist us in achieving wealth. Across history, water sources were the basis for settlements, but they also served as a means of trade: “sea routes were eclipsing land networks for long-distance trade” (Tignor, 2018, p. 358). Surprisingly, water has greatly influenced how humans have settled and interacted with one another. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Tessa Erickson-Thoemke

    Hi Felicity,

    I enjoyed reading your article about the places in which people chose to settle on. We can see many instances where sources of water are necessary for successful establishments. You provided some great comparisons between the Asian River basins and Lake Superior. I like your comment about humans seeking areas of opportunity. Even today we are constantly seeking environments that will assist us in achieving wealth. Across history, water sources were the basis for settlements, but they also served as a means of trade: “sea routes were eclipsing land networks for long-distance trade” (Tignor, 2018, p. 358). Surprisingly, water has greatly influenced how humans have settled and interacted with one another. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Lexie DeWall


    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on Lake Superior, and all the reasons why people are drawn to it! It is truly a great example of a physical geographical attribute that many people look for when deciding where to relocate. Lake Superior is really known for their loading docks and being a part of such a wide-spread trading route and destination. “Improved navigational aids, refinements in shipbuilding, better mapmaking, and new legal arrangements and accounting practices made shipping easier and slashed the costs of seaborne trade” (Tignor et al., 2018, p. 358). This is just another example of how long-distance trading at sea has come a long ways, and how important it is to transport goods to and from such great distances!

  11. Tara Bighley

    It was awesome to read about your comparison of Duluth to the Chavín people in the Andes. I also compared the Chavín people in the Andes to my hometown in Oakdale, Minnesota. Many people choose to live in areas where they have the opportunity to grow and have resources available. In the text “Worlds Together, Worlds apart” by Tignor et al, it is stated that there were signs of “highlanders migrating to the lowlands to produce agrarian staples for their kin in the mountains” (Tignor, 2018, pg. 388). People move to areas where they can thrive and have the necessary resources to stay alive. Duluth is home to Lake Superior which supplies many people with fresh water. We are lucky today because we are able to live where ever we want with the technology to transport. Thank you for your post!

  12. Hi Felicity!
    I really enjoyed reading this, I have grown up in Duluth so I have been near Lake Superior my whole life. This is such a beautiful city to live in. You tied together many similarities between these different communities! Duluth is known for its shipping routes through lake superior and that was important over seas as well for early settlements. TIgnor in “Worlds Together, Worlds Apart” states, “sea routes were eclipsing land networks for long-distance trade” (Tignor, p. 358) It is amazing how many similarities there are between early times and now and even comparing modern cities to each other across the globe. Thanks for sharing this!

  13. Evan Wohlert

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on where people choose to live in our world. It’s amazing to me that no matter where we decide to settle as humans, we use our resources to their fullest extent. The best example I felt you gave was with the Chavín people, who use llama dung as fertilizer and fuel. I think it’s amazing that we are able to use things that seem useless, such as llama dung, for multiple uses. The Chavín community even used steep mountains as bases for their homes. As Tignor states in “Worlds Together, Worlds Apart” “The Chavín people literally organized their societies vertically” adding, “Communities and households spread their trading systems up the mountainsides” (p. 186). I find it amazing that we are able to be so productive as a species and we are able to innovate new ideas to make hard to live in places habitable. Awesome job on the article Felicity!

  14. Justice Bauer

    Hello Felicity!

    Where you choose to live and settle has a huge impact on the weather and climate. It also has an impact on the fertile grounds and landscape, as you mentioned in your article. My family for example, has been farming and living off of crop profits for as long as I can remember. If we lived in an area that wasn’t fertile, we’d be in trouble. I like that you mentioned our home near Lake Superior and how we are promised a rich animal population with our fertile lands and drinking source. This reminds me of Tignor’s Worlds Together, Worlds Apart because he talked about the common migration patterns across civilizations because they were in search of an area that they could thrive off of. Thank you for your post!

  15. Brett Radford

    I find it very interesting to here why people live where they do and what has made them want to live there. i love how we have the freedom to choose were we live and theirs always the option to move. Based on personal interests people may choose to settle by the ocean or lakes, or settle by mountains if thats what they are into. Most cities in this world have settled near bodies of water because having that really helps the city as it has many different benefits. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Kyle Star


    Great job with this post, I also believe that where you choose to live is very important. Having to freedom to choose where we want to live is amazing because we can choose to live in these area’s that we will thrive the most. Living by Lake Superior is such a good spot, and I agree with all of the examples you used on why. It also is good for transportation and trading though. In Tignor, they discuss and explain to us how much of an advantage communities had with trade when they lived near a water source of some sort. Its cool to see how we still to this day, do all the same things. I love how you pointed out the nomads, and how they even were to settle in places like this for a while. “The Vedic people used the Indus Valley as a staging area fro migrations throughout the Northern plain of south Asia” (Tignor et al., 2019, p 98).

    Awesome job with this post, It was a great read


  17. Itzayan Rocha


    I loved your post. Especially with everything that is happening now it is good to remember all of our resources, and where they come from. It is so important to know that we are here, and we exist thanks to our environment, and like you wrote, we were able to flourish because of it. It is so sad to see all of the news about global warming and climate change. Especially with the fire in the Amazon. So many ecosystems being destroyed, and no one seems to care enough to do something about it. All of the resources that we use on a day to day basis could be gone, due to our carelessness.


  18. Gabrielle Trelstad

    This was a very well thought-out and researched post. It’s fascinating to think about how regardless of time or place, people generally choose to settle in areas with similar terrain. The way that you connected your own experiences with historic examples was very engaging and thought-provoking. It is interesting to think about why it is that people choose to settle where they do, and you provide some great thoughts on the subject. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  19. Jake Foster


    You bring up a good case and it’s quite interesting. People seem to always look for the qualities you pointed out when settling. It boggles the mind to think of how far humans have expanded from these original settlements. The vastness and diversity of environments is astonishing, especially when considering how inhospitable some places are. I always forget how important such details are, even when we are no longer hunter-gatherers.


  20. Rylee Whitney

    I have always been proud to say that I am from the land of 10,000 plus lakes. Mostly because I love the outdoors and spending time on the water. Prior to reading this report, I did not realize how much of an impact these 10,000 lakes made to settlers looking for opportunity hundreds of years ago. Coming from the Iron Range, I now understand that our land is so fertile because of the ecosystems that surround it.
    I have always seen Lake Superior as a transportation hot spot for large shipments of resources. After reading this report, I understand that these resources would not be available to produce if it wasn’t for this Great Lake and the surrounding ones in our area. This also reminds me of how many years ago, timber production in northern Minnesota was booming. This is because of the fertile soil we have due to the water surrounding it where our ancestors chose to live off of. It makes me curious about the different techniques other cultures have used around the world to provide opportunity for themselves and generations to come.

  21. Anna Becker

    As time has passed and a new school year has approached us, I took a look at your article and couldn’t help myself but leave a comment. This article was written very well and addressed a lot of things I have been thinking of myself over the past couple weeks. Thank you for sharing.
    We know that hundreds of years ago, the main theme of choosing where to live stemmed mostly from survival. We all had reasons in choosing where we live, which has ultimately brought us all together. The United States, commonly known as the ‘melting pot,’ has been the key zone for individuals to turn to for hundreds of years. This country has been called home by individuals from all over the world.
    As time moves on, we can still say that people search for homage in places where they can best survive; but in today’s age, what does survival look like? It no longer revolves around the best hunting or an abundant water supply, so what does it look like? We have reached a point in our history where a lot of not only surviving, but thriving, is derived from money. If you are wealthy, you will succeed, and if you succeed you are the fittest, therefore your offspring will also be successful as they stand under your shadow. On the other hand, you will find many individuals that define survival merely as a sense of happiness within what their life has offered them. And although these individuals may not be the wealthiest or have gold running through their veins, they too will be the fittest, generating successful offspring.
    It is important to recognize that all individuals are unique, there is no set scale for success. Success is knowing who you are and who you want to become. But success is also knowing where you came from, where you descended from, and to whom you truly owe your success.
    We are all different, stemming from all across the world to meet in here in the United States, but remember we all succeed in our own beautiful ways.
    Thank you Felicity for providing grounds for a good conversation to be had.

  22. Toni Bishop

    Hi Felicity,
    I know you said that people chose where they live because of the resources that come from it. I wonder if this has changed a little bit because we have so much technology now days that it makes it a lot easier to live where every we want now. I think right now we chose where we live with how happy that place will make us. Whereas back even just a couple of decades ago I think we chose where we lived off of for survival purposes.I think that you are right Duluth is a perfect area to be in because it does give so many advantages: transportation, water, food, nature, ect. Minnesota I would say in your case would probably be one of the places that people would have wanted to settle in. Thank you for your great post.

  23. Lili Tapper

    Reading your article did help me realize the trend of humans migrating to places where the land was viable for cultivation. There is a lot to be inferred about the location of civilizations. For example, if you live in a tropical region, bananas, mangoes, or other various fruits are more likely to be farmed than squash. By being able to make these conclusions, you can begin to use them as puzzle pieces to understand ancient civilizations. It is neat to be able to do that with the Duluth. Imagining indigenous populations using the native resources. Thank you for this thought provoking piece!

    Lili Tapper

  24. jane kariuki

    Dear Felicity,
    I loved reading a little about you and your home. Your article reminds me of what we are talking about in my Current Environmental Class. The idea that humans have always been depended on nature. How patterns of migration revolve around humans searching for necessities to sustain themselves. It is also interesting how the earth has always been able to provide, although we are at a point where we assess our actions in relation to the earth. Another thing that your article made me think about is people’s relations to land. For instance, indigenous people believe that one cannot own land, it is not an element of possession. Whereas some African cultures believe to be without land it is to be poor, thus there is more of a push to retain it. Overall, your article really provokes different ideas of how we relate to land and the ecosystem in general. Thank you for sharing.

  25. Mykaila Peters

    Do you know more scientifically what minerals and nutrients make our soil so fertile and what crops grow best in that soil? I also wonder how people who inhabited this area found out what crops flourish here and how our cuisines came to be dependent on specific areas and regions. I wonder if it was more a trial and error type of situation or what. I also think it is interesting to ponder the thought of people following their values and, in the past, what they thought would allow them survival. I think we live in much the same way today however it is seen and structured much differently. We may not be looking directly for a great water source that enables us to grow our own food to feed ourselves and our family but we certainly look for places where we will be employed and able to make money so that we can live. It is interesting to see how this has changed as our values and lifestyles have changed over history along with the changes in how we use our natural resources.

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