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 NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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 NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports


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.

References:
Linder, D. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2019, from http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/superior/superiorfacts.html
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) css.edu

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Professor Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports. Ellie Swanson and Marin Ekstrom, Assistant Managing Editors, The North Star Reports.

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18 Comments

Filed under History, Professor Hong-Ming Liang, Professor Liang's Classes

18 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 NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

    • Averie Fredrickson-Seibert

      Felicity,
      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).

  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

    Felicity,
    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).
    Alli

  3. Sarah Symanietz

    Felicity,
    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.
    Sarah

  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!
    -Grace

  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

    Felicity!

    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

    Felicity,
    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

    Felicity,
    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!
    Evan

  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

    Hello,
    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.
    Brett

  16. Kyle Star

    Felicity,

    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

    Kyle

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