Describe the relationship between physical geography and world cultures.

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hi1954 | Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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The geography of a region and the human uses of that are interdependent in a number of obvious ways.  For instance, people living along a seacoast tend to fish, so they develop cultures involving the sea, boats, fishing techniques, a diet rich in seafoods, etc.  Of course this will also be combined with the resources of the land they live on.  In colder areas, such as Northern Europe, the raising of sheep for wool is common, and knitting became important.  In Ireland and in Norway, for example, people developed distinctive knitting patterns for the sweaters so that unrecognizable bodies of drowned sailors or fishermen could be recognized by the clothes.  In the South Pacific island cultures, less clothing was needed to start with, and clothes that were light kept the fishermen from overheating in the sun.  The plants that grew there were used as fibers for clothing, rather than the hair or skins of animals.

People who lived in mountainous geography developed entirely different cultures from sea-going peoples, often isolationist in character.  Clothes, customs, languages and tools all reflect the needs of a population to a very large degree dictated by the geography and climate of the region where they live.  Architecture is effected, also.  The open Roman villas, developed in a warm and sunny climate, would have been unbearable in the forests of northern Europe, where wooden log houses developed, with greater insulating properties.  The movable yurts of the steppes cultures across northern and central Asia were a function of the geography, which demanded a nomadic lifestyle. The links below will take you to sites with more information.

One of the interesting things I've noticed is the difference between the Great Pyramid and other Egyptian monuments with astronomical orientations and Stonehenge.  In Egypt, their astronomical capabilities were very limited.  Something constant, such as the location of the sun on midsummer's day, was something they could tell and build a sighting device for.  But that was about all; their astronomy was actually quite limited.  Stonehenge, on the other hand, although built by an obviously more "primitive" culture was an extremely versatile astronomical site, capable of telling in great detail exactly where the sun, moon and stars would be in the sky at different times of the year.  I believe this was because of geographical differences, which effected the two cultures.  In Egypt, life depended on the Nile River, which regularly flooded and receeded, providing the basis of Egyptian agriculture.  In Britain the changes of the seasons were more erratic, and the growing season shorter.  The culture there had a greater need to know precisely what time of year to plant what types of crops, and thus the great degree of accuracy of their astronomical "clock".

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