Sequent occupance can help us understand why the United States shows such a rich cultural diversity. But what does this term actually mean? ScienceStruck tells you the meaning of sequent occupance in geography, using its definition and some examples.
Did You Know?
Derwent Whittlesey, the geographer who introduced the concept of sequent occupance, drew his inspiration from plant succession, the process by which the type of plants growing in a region changes with time.
It is common to see buildings of a unique style in distinct pockets of a city. These styles may be inspired from the architecture of other countries, which may even be on the opposite side of the globe! At the same time, some citizens may have names derived from a foreign language, or follow ancient traditions which have become redundant long ago. This raises the question as to why are there so many differences in the same region, and how did such foreign influences make their way into a particular locality? The answer lies in a theory called ‘sequent occupance’. Let’s understand the concept of sequent occupance with some interesting examples.
Sequent Occupance Definition
Sequent occupance is a concept used to describe the current cultural landscape of a region, as a combination of all the cultures which have ‘sequentially’ occupied the region from the past to the present. In other words, a region may be occupied by one civilization, followed by another which took its place, and so on. However, the cultural imprint of each civilization is never completely lost, and its traces can be seen to the present day.
It is important to understand that this phenomenon occurs in the same region or space, but at different times. Sequent occupance regards each region as a pattern of many cultural layers laid upon each other, where each layer can be attributed to a particular civilization, which overlaps the one before it.
Sequent Occupance Examples
Many countries in the African continent are erstwhile colonies of European superpowers like Great Britain. An example of this is Nigeria, which was a British colony from 1885 to 1960. The Nigerian city of Lagos has many buildings constructed after independence, which show characteristics of contemporary architectural styles. However, the buildings of the colonial era stand out due to their distinct European style.
The African nation of Tanzania has passed from the hands of one ruler to another, beginning with the Portuguese in the 15th century to the Arabs in the 18th, followed by the Germans in the 1880s, and, finally the British until 1961. Moreover, the country has a sizable population of Indian origin, due to the migration that began from India’s Gujarat province in the 19th century.
Its largest city, Dar es Salaam, shows a unique culture, which has been influenced by Arabs, Germans, British, Indians, and of course, the indigenous Tanzanians.
● New Orleans
New Orleans, in the modern US State of Louisiana, was initially inhabited by Native Americans before European colonization, similar to most of the Americas. In 1718, the French colonized this region, but it came under Spanish control in 1763. African slaves were introduced in the state in the 18th century. Spain then ceded control of this state to USA.
The modern culture of this city is strongly influenced by all these civilizations. For example, the French quarter of the city shows a distinct Spanish style of architecture.
Ancient Egypt was one of the first human civilizations, founded almost 5,000 years ago. This was the period when it was ruled by the pharaohs. Then it came under the influence of the Greeks, after which, Christianity entered the region around the 1st century AD. However, Egypt was ruled by the Arabs from the 7th to the 19th century, when it finally became a British protectorate (indirect colony).
For this reason, the country now boasts of a rich diversity of ancient pyramids, monuments, temples, churches, mosques, British-era colonial buildings, along with modern buildings constructed since 1953 when the country became an independent republic.
Spain has been colonized by humans since the Paleolithic age. Later, different tribes, like the Iberians and Celts, fought for control of the region. For a brief period, it was conquered by the Romans and Germanic tribes, until falling to Muslim invaders, called the Moors, for almost 800 years, until it was reconquered in the 15th century by Christian Crusaders.
For this reason, the country shows features of all these civilizations, right till the modern age. Despite the political upheaval of the past, relics of the Moorish and Christian past have survived in the form of ancient mosques and cathedrals.
The South American country of Bolivia has been occupied by various civilizations throughout the 2,000 years of its history. Of its tribal societies, the most famous civilization was of the Inca empire, which was at its peak in the 16th century, when the Spanish colonizers finally displaced them as rulers.
Due to its varied history, the modern republic shows a diversity of cultural features, such as the pagan festivals of the pre-Spanish period, ruins of the Tiwanaku and Inca empires, and art and music inspired by the Spanish invaders.
● New Zealand
New Zealand has one of the shortest histories of any country in the world. In the 13th century, Polynesian tribes, called the Maori, reached the region by sea, and colonized it. They built well-planned towns, and practiced hunting and agriculture.
When European settlers arrived in the 18th century,
they cleared land and established roads and cities, which began the industrialization of modern New Zealand. While the Maori culture became redundant since colonization, it remains strong in some places like Auckland. The Maori’s historical sites are traces of their civilization, while the growth of urban cities, together with the massive deforestation caused during their development, are signs of European contribution.
The original settlers of Jamaica were the Taino tribe, who were entirely wiped out by diseases brought in by Spanish settlers in the 16th century. Then, the colony was controlled by Great Britain till 1962. People of African origin form most of the country’s population, who trace their ancestry to African slaves first brought into the country in the 18th century.
The cultural landscape of Jamaica shows several names adapted from the Taino language, along with their artifacts. Several places and rivers bear Spanish names, such as Port Antonio and Rio Core. Most settlements show a distinct African style.
● British Isles
Lowland Britain saw its first human residents in the Paleolithic era, though the most prominent relic that prehistoric man left behind was built only 5,000 years ago – the Stonehenge. Then the Celtic tribes gained a foothold in the region, followed by the Romans.
In the 5th century, lowland Britain was ruled by the Saxon tribe, following which, fierce Scandinavian warriors called Vikings conquered the region in the 9th century. Each of these civilizations have left their imprint on the region’s culture. The Celtic languages contributed greatly to the development of British literature. The Romans left behind their ruins, and the Duke of Normandy built several castles that can be seen to this day.
The concept of sequent occupance can also involve environmental changes caused by past societies. For example, the Maori tribe of New Zealand have been blamed for hunting the moa bird into extinction, while their European successors have been accused of wiping out nearly 14,000 square miles of forests in the last decade of the 19th century alone.