About 10,000 years before present (B.
P.) when man started domestication of plants and animals that was the beginning of permanent and stable settlements Pre-historic man, like man in primitive communities today, was incapable of struggling against nature by himself or individually. In fact, the primitive, pre-historic man had little control over nature.
For the cutting of forests and clearing of land by fire to develop fields, he had to cooperate with others. Such type of cooperation helped in the development of compact settlements Agricultural communities with primitive techniques of cultivation often needed to unite in order to surmount great material difficulties; for instance to protect themselves from wild beasts who often had them at their mercy, and above all to cooperate in tilling the soil In the forests and valleys of Siwaliks, and in the states of Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura and Mizoram, many compact settlements came into existence because to defend against wild animals and enemies. In the productive alluvial regions such as the Indo-Gangetic plains, the Hawang Ho valley, the valley of Nile, etc., compact settlements got established during the pre-historic period. These are some of the most densely populated regions of the world in which the nucleated or compact settlements dominate the landscape. One feature which is common to many villages on the great alluvial plains is that they often occupy mounds which are the relics of forerunners of the villages of today. In India, one more feature of these compact settlements is that they have a high degree of segregation and differentiation of the upper and lower castes.
Each caste is allotted its specific locality. The market place and shops are always near the centre of the village. The mosques or temples are also in the centre of the settlement. In the newly irrigated areas of Ferozpur (Punjab) and Ganganagar (Rajasthan), there are planned villages.
These new compact settlements are rectangular in shape with an open space where the mosque, gurdwara or temple and shops stand. Apart from agriculturists, compact settlements are also found in many of the hunting and fishing communities. The American Red Indians, hunting and fishing tribes are living in big villages because compactness is needed for making, maintaining and handling fishing boats. Big villages are still numerous along the Brahmaputra and Hoogly rivers, where fishing requires cooperative management of the weirs and traps on the rivers.
Compact settlements are generally found in the plains or along the water bodies where soil, fish and other resources are rich. When the resources are poor and scanty, the villages are small. For example, in the Aravalli tract, the Rajput settlements consist of only eight or nine houses. Contrary to this, the hunting and gathering Hottentot tribes of Africa live in large compact settlements as their territories are well-endowed with game and water holes.
The resources and wealth of a country, however, are not static. With the change in technology the resource base also changes which leads to a transformation in the type and pattern of settlement. Intensive cultivation, which clearly represents the most scientific use of soil, has given rise to the greatest number of very large compact settlements. The history of settlement very often shows that the increase of population in the agricultural communities and more demand for food have resulted into intensification of agriculture.
The rural settlement became more compact to accommodate more people over minimum space. When there was not adequate space to accommodate the increasing number of people, many of them constructed their houses at a suitable neighboring locality and similarly organized the new settlement on the pattern of their old village. This process can be seen throughout the Sutlej-Ganga plains. Many of the purvas and majras in the Ganga plain are the examples of settlements which are results of intensification of agriculture.
“Compact settlements at the top of hills and ridges of Nagaland are the results of the practice of head-hunting in the past, where people of each settlement have to depute volunteers from each family to work as the watchmen at nights against the invading head-hunters. Although compact rural settlements may be found in all the intensively cultivated plains and valleys of all the continents, their concentration is quite enormous in Northern India, Eastern China, Egypt, Syria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar (Burma), Java, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Mexico, Brazil, Kenya and the North-Western European plains. The Togo of Africa also constructs their huts in a compact manner.