1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ethnology and ethnography

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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 9
Ethnology and ethnography
See also Ethnology and Ethnography on Wikipedia; and our 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica disclaimer.

ETHNOLOGY and ETHNOGRAPHY (from the Gr. ἔθνος, race, and λόγος, science, or γράφειν, to write), sciences which in their narrowest sense deal respectively with man as a racial unit (mankind), i.e. his development through the family and tribal stages into national life, and with the distribution over the earth of the races and nations thus formed. Though the etymology of the words permits in theory of this line of division between ethnology and ethnography, in practice they form an indivisible study of man's progress from the point at which anthropology (q.v.) leaves him.

Ethnology is thus the general name for investigations of the widest character, including subjects which in this encyclopaedia are dealt with in detail under separate headings, such as Archaeology, Art (and allied articles), Commerce, Geography (and the headings for countries and tribes), Family, Name, Ethics, Law, Mythology, Folk-Lore (and allied articles), Philology (and allied articles), Agriculture, Architecture, Religion, Sociology, &c., &c. It covers generally the whole history of the material and intellectual development of man, as it has passed through the stages of (a) hunting and fishing, (b) sheep and cattle tending, (c) agriculture, (d) industry. It investigates his food, his weapons, tools and implements, his housing, his social, economic and commercial organization, forms of government, language, art, literature, morals, superstitions and religious systems. In this sense ethnology is the older term for what now is called sociology. At the present day the progress of research has in practice, however, restricted the “ethnologist” as a rule to the stndy of one or more branches only of so wide a subject, and the word “ethnology” is used with a somewhat vague meaning for any ethnological study; each country or nation has thus its own separate ethnology. It becomes more convenient, therefore, to deal with the ethnology as a special subject in each case. “Ethnography,” in so far as it has a distinctive province, is then conveniently restricted to the scientific mapping out of different racial regions, nations and tribes; and it is only necessary here to refer the reader to the separate articles on continents, &c., where this is done. The only fundamental problem which need here be referred to is that of the whole question of the division of mankind into separate races at all, which is consequential on the earlier problem (dealt with in the article Anthropology) as to man's origin and antiquity.

If we assume that man existed on the earth in remote geological time, the question arises, was this pleistocene man specifically one? What evidence is there that he represented in his different habitats a series of varieties of one species rather than a series of species? The evidence is of three kinds, (1) anatomical, (2) physiological, (3) cultural and psychical.

1. Dr Robert Munro, in his address to the Anthropological section of the British Association in 1893, said: “All the osseous remains of man which have hitherto been collected and examined point to the fact that, during the larger portion of the quarternary period, if not, indeed, from its very commencement, he had already acquired his human characteristics.” By “characteristics” is here meant those anatomical ones which distinguish man from other animals, not the physical criteria of the various races. Do, then, these anatomical characteristics of pleistocene man show such differences among themselves and between them and the types of man existing to-day as to justify the assumption that there has ever been more than one species of man?

The undoubted “osseous remains” of pleistocene man are few. Burial was not practised, and the few bones found are for the most part those which have by mere chance been preserved in caves or rock-shelters. Of these the three chief “finds,” in order of probable age, are the Trinil (Java) brain-cap, the lowest human skull yet described, characterized by depressed cranial arch, with a cephalic index of 70; the Neanderthal (Germany) skull, remarkable for its flat retreating curve with an index of 73-76; and the two nearly perfect skeletons found at Spy (Belgium), the skulls of which exhibit enormous brow ridges with cranial indices of 70 and 75. All these skulls, taken in conjunction with other well-authenticated human remains such as those found at La Naulette (Belgium), Shipka (Balkan Peninsula), Olmo (Italy), Predmert (Bohemia) and in Argentina and Brazil, make it possible to reconstruct anatomically the varying types of pleistocene man, and to establish the fact that in essential features the same primitive type has persisted through all time. The skeleton bones show differences so slight as to admit of pathological or other explanation. What Professor Kollmann says of man to-day was true in the remotest ages. Referring to Cuvier's statement that from a single bone it is possible to determine the very species to which an animal belongs, he says, “Precisely on this ground I have mainly concluded that the existence of several human species cannot be recognized, for we are unacquainted with a single tribe from a single bone of which we might with certainty determine to what species it belonged.” Such differences as the bones exhibit are progressive modifications towards the higher neolithic and modern types, and are in themselves entirely incapable of supporting the theory that the owner of the Trinil skull, say, and the “man of Spy” belonged to separate species. All these “osseous remains” belong to the palaeolithic period, and from the cranial indices it is thus clear that palaeolithic man was long-headed. Neolithic man is, speaking generally, round-headed, and it has been urged that round-headedncss is entirely synchronous with the neolithic age, and that the long-headed palaeolithic species of mankind gave place all at once to the round-headed neolithic species. The point thus raised involves the physiological as well as, indeed more than, the anatomical proofs of man's specific unity.

2. All physiologists agree that species cannot breed with species. Darwin himself laid it down as a fundamental principle. If then the palaeolithic and neolithic types represented separate species, they would be found to remain distinct through all time. This is not the case. There is evidence that extreme dolichocephaly continued into neolithic times, and was only slowly modified into brachycephaly. In the neolithic caves of Italy, Austria, Belgium, and the barrows of Great Britain, skulls of all types are found. The later cave-dwellers and early dolmen builders of Europe were at first long-headed, then of medium type, and finally in some places exclusively round-headed. In England the round-heads appear to be synchronous with the metal age, as shown by the contents of the barrows, and, as on the continental mainland, the two types gradually blended. Permanent fertility between them in prehistoric Europe is thus proved. And this is the case throughout the habitable globe. An examination of the osseous remains of American man supports the view that the human species has not varied since quaternary times. The palaeolithic type is to be found among modern European populations. Certain skulls from South Australia seem cast in almost the same mould as the Neanderthal. After thousands of years nearly pure descendants of quaternary man are found among living races. And man's mutual fertility in prehistoric is repeated throughout historic times: strict racial purity is almost unknown. Thus the unity of the species man is proved by the test of fertility.

3. The works of early man everywhere present the most startling resemblance. The palaeolithic implements all over the globe are all of one pattern. “The implements in distant lands,” writes Sir J. Evans, “are so identical in form and character with the British specimens that they might have been manufactured by the same hands. . . . On the banks of the Nile, many hundreds of feet above its present level, implements of the European types have been discovered; while in Somaliland, in an ancient river-valley at a great elevation above the sea, Sir H. W. Seton-Karr has collected a large number of implements formed of flint and quartzite, which, judging from their form and character, might have been dug out of the drift-deposits of the Somme and the Seine, the Thames or the ancient Solent.” This identity in the earliest arts is repeated in the later stages of man's culture; his arts and crafts, his manners and customs, exhibit a similarity so close as to compel the presumption that all the races are but divisions of one family. But perhaps the greatest psychical proof of man's specific unity is his common possession of language. Theodore Waitz writes: “Inasmuch as the possession of a language of regular grammatical structure forms a fixed barrier between man and brute, it establishes at the same time a near relationship between all people in psychical respects. . . . In the presence of this common feature of the human mind, all other differences lose their import” (Anthropology, p. 273). As Dr J. C. Prichard urged, “the same inward and mental nature is to be recognized in all races of men. When we compare this fact with the observations, fully established, as to the specific instincts and separate psychical endowments of all the distinct tribes of sentient beings in the Universe we are entitled to draw confidently the conclusion that all human races are of one species and one family.” It has been argued that stock languages imply stock races, but this assumption is untenable. There are some fifty irreducible stock languages in the United States and Canada, yet, taking into consideration the physical and moral homogeneity of the American Indian races, he would be a reckless theorist who held that there were therefore fifty separate human species. If it were so, how have they descended? There are no anthropoid apes in America, none of the ape family higher than the Cebidae, from which it is impossible to trace men. Again, in Australia there is certainly one stock language, yet there are not even Cebidae. In Caucasia, there are many distinct forms of speech, yet all the peoples belong to the Caucasic division of mankind.

Man, then, may be regarded as specifically one, and thus he must have had an original cradle-land, whence the peopling of the earth was brought about by migration. The evidence tends to prove that the world was peopled by a generalized proto-human form. Each division of mankind would thus have had its pleistocene ancestors, and would have become differentiated into races by the influence of climatic and other surroundings. As to the man's cradle-land there have been many theories, but the weight of evidence is in favour of Indo-Malaysia.

Of all animals man's range alone coincides with that of the habitable globe, and the real difficulty of the “cradle-land” theory lay in explaining how the human race spread to every land. This problem has been met by geology, which proves that the earth's surface has undergone great changes since man's appearance, and that continents, long since submerged, once existed, making a complete land communication from Indo-Malaysia. The evidence for the Indo-African continent has been summed up by R. D. Oldham,[1] and proofs no less cogent are available of the former existence of an Eurafrican continent, while the extension of Australia in the direction of New Guinea is more than probable. Thus the ancestor of man was free to move in all directions over the eastern hemisphere. The western hemisphere was more than probably connected with Europe and Asia, in Tertiary times, by a continent, the existence of which is evidenced by a submarine bank stretching from Scotland through the Faeroes and Iceland to Greenland, and on the other side by continuous land at what is now the Behring Straits.

Acclimatization has been urged as an argument against the cradle-land theory, but the peopling of the globe took place in inter-Glacial if not pre-Glacial ages, when the climate was much milder everywhere, and thus pleistocene man met no climatic difficulties in his migrations.

Probably before the close of Palaeolithic times all the primary divisions of man were specialized in their several habitats by the influence of their surroundings. The profound effect of climate is seen in the relative culture of races. Thus, tropical countries are inhabited by savage or semi-savage peoples, while the higher races are confined to temperate zones. The primary divisions of mankind, Ethiopic, Mongolic, Caucasic, were certainly differentiated in neolithic times, and these criteria had almost certainly occurred not consecutively in one area but simultaneously in several areas. A Negro was not metamorphosed into a Mongol, nor the latter into a White, but the several semi-simian precursors under varying environments developed into generalized Negro, generalized Mongol, generalized Caucasian.

Taking, then, these three primary divisions as those into which it is most reasonable broadly to divide mankind they may be analysed as to their racial constituents and their habitats as follows: —

1. Caucasic or White Man is best divided, following Huxley, into (a) Xanthochroi or “fair whites” and (b) Melanochroi or “dark whites.” (a) The first — tall, with almost colourless skin, blue or grey eyes, hair from straw colour to chestnut, and skulls varying as to proportionate width arc the prevalent inhabitants of Northern Europe, and the type may be traced into North Africa and eastward as far as India. On the south and west it mixes with that of the Melanochroi and on the north and east with that of the Mongoloids. (b) The “dark whites” differ from the fair whites in the darkening of the complexion to brownish and olive, and of the eyes and hair to black, while the stature is somewhat lower and the frame lighter. To this division belong a large pan of those classed as Celts, and of the populations of Southern Europe, such as Spaniards, Greeks and Arabs, extending as far as India, while endless intermediate grades between the two white types testify to ages of intermingling. Besides these two main types, the Caucasic division of mankind has been held with much reason to include such aberrant types as the brown Polynesian races of the Eastern Pacific, Samoans, Hawaiians, Maoris, &c., the proto-Malay peoples of the Eastern archipelago, sometimes termed Indonesians, represented by the Dyaks of Borneo and the Battaks of Sumatra, the Todas of India and the Ainus of Japan.

2. Mongolic or Yellow Man prevails over the vast area lying east of a line drawn from Lapland to Siam. His physical characteristics are a short squat body, a yellowish-brown or coppery complexion, hair lank, straight and black, flat small nose, broad skull, usually without prominent brow-ridges, and black oblique eyes. Of the typical Mongolic races the chief are the Chinese, Tibetans, Burmese, Siamese; the Finnic group of races occupying Northern Europe, such as Finns, Lapps, Samoyedes and Ost yaks, and the Arctic Asiatic group represented by the Chukchis and Kamchadales; the Tunguses, Gilyaks and Golds north of, and the Mongols proper west of, Manchuria; the pure Turkic peoples and the Japanese and Koreans. Less typical, but with the Mongolic elements so predominant as to warrant inclusion, are the Malay peoples of the Eastern archipelago. Lastly, though differentiated in many ways from the true Mongol, the American races from the Eskimo to the Fuegians must be reckoned in the Yellow division of mankind.

3. Negroid or Black Man is primarily represented by the Negro of Africa between the Sahara and the Cape district, including Madagascar. The skin varies from dark brown to brown-black, with eyes of the same colour, and hair usually black and always crisp or woolly. The skull is narrow, with orbital ridges not prominent, the jaws protrude, the nose is flat and broad, and the lips thick and everted. Two important families are classed in this division; some authorities hold, as special modifications of the typical Negro to-day, others as actually nearer the true generalized Negroid type of neolithic times. First are the Bushman of South Africa, diminutive in stature and of a yellowish-brown colour: the neighbouring Hottentot is believed to be the result of crossing between the Bushman and the true Negro. Second are the large Negrito family, represented in Africa by the dwarf races of the equatorial forests, the Akkas, Batwas, Wochuas and others, and beyond Africa by the Andaman Islanders, the Aetas of the Philippines, and probably the Senangs and other aboriginal tribes of the Malay Peninsula. The Negroid type seems to have been the earliest predominant in the South Sea islands, but it is impossible to say certainly whether it is itself derived from the Negrito, or the latter is a modification of it, as has been suggested above. In Melanesia, the Papuans of New Guinea, of New Caledonia, and other islands, represent a more or less Negroid type, as did the now extinct Tasmanians.

Excluded from this survey of the grouping of Man are the aborigines of Australia, whose ethnical affinities are much disputed. Probably they are to be reckoned as Dravidians, a very remote blend of Caucasic and Negro man. For a detailed discussion of the branches of these three main divisions of Man the reader must refer to articles under race headings, and to Negro; Negritos; Mongols; Malays; Indians, North American; Australia; Africa; &c., &c.

Bibliography. J.C. Prichard, Natural History of Man (London, 1843), Researches into the Physical History of Mankind (5 vols., 1836-1847); T. H. Huxley, Man's Place in Nature (London, 1863), and “Geographical Distribution of Chief Modifications of Mankind,” in Journ. Anthropological Institute for 1870; Theodore Waitz, Anthropologie der Naturvölker (1859-1871); A. de Quatrefages, Histoire générale des races humaines (Paris, 1889); E. B. Tylor, Anthropology (1881); Lord Avebury, Prehistoric Times (1865; 6th ed., 1900) and Origin of Civilization (1870; 6th ed., 1902); F. Ratzel, History of Mankind (Eng. trans., 1897); A. H. Keane, Ethnology (2nd ed., 1897), and Man: Past and Present (2nd ed., 1899); G. de Mortillet, Le Préhistorique (Paris, 1882; 3rd ed., 1900); D. G. Brinton, Races and Peoples (1890); J. Deniker, The Races of Man (London, 1900); Hutchinson's Living Races of Mankind (1906).


  1. Writing in the Geographical Journal, March 1894, on “Evolution of Indian Geography,” he says: “The plants of Indian and African coal measures are without exception identical, and among the few animals which have been found in India one is indistinguishable from an African species, another is closely allied, and both faunas are characterized by the very remarkable genus group of reptiles comprising the Dicynodon and other allied forms (see Manual of Geology of India, 2nd ed. p. 203). These, however, are not the only analogies, for near the coast of South Africa there are developed a series of beds containing the plant fossils in the lower part and marine shells in the upper, known as the Uitenhage series, which corresponds exactly to the small patches of the Rajmahál series along the east coast of India. The few plant forms found in the lower beds of Africa are mostly identical with or closely allied to the Rajmahál species, while of the very few marine shells in the Indian outcrops, which are sufficiently well preserved for identification, at least one species is identical with an African form. These very close relationships between the plants and animals of India and Africa at this remote period appear inexplicable unless there were direct land communications between them over what is now the Indian Ocean. On the east coast of India in the Khasi Hills, and on the coast of South Africa, the marine fossils of late jurassic and early cretaceous age are largely identical with, or very closely allied to each other, showing that they must have been inhabitants of one and the same great sea. In western India the fossils of the same age belong to a fauna which is found in the north of Madagascar, in northern and eastern Africa, in western Asia, and ranges into Europe — a fauna differing so radically from that of the eastern exposures that only a few specimens of world-wide range are found in both. Seeing that the distances between the separate outcrops containing representatives of the two faunas are much less than those separating the outcrops from the nearest ones of the same fauna, the only possible explanation of the facts is that there was a continuous stretch of dry land connecting South Africa and India and separating two distinct marine zoological provinces.”