Page:Last of the tasmanians.djvu/375

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CHAPTER XIII.

CIVILIZATION.

 

An interesting discussion has occupied the minds of the learned. Archbishop Whately gave utterance to the opinion, entertained by most of the so-called religious world, that barbarism was merely the result of lost civilization, and that no instance had occurred of unassisted elevation.

Certainly Australia has given little evidence of self-exaltation; simply preserving, as far as we can discern, that measure of civilization brought by the dark people from the parent-home of India, or wherever else it may have been. It has been usual to allow that the ingeniously constructed boomerang was a remnant of previously existing civilization, or, at least, copied from the Egyptians when their fathers were their neighbours; but Sir John Lubbock regards it as a step in advance, and urges, "We cannot look upon it as a relic of primeval civilization." Sir Thomas Mitchell once said of the Australians, "Perhaps the iron tomahawk is the only important addition made to their implements during the last three or four thousand years." Mr. Tylor favours the idea of gradual progression from within. He sees the evidence of this in some of the lowest tribes, and talks of "a growth in man's power over nature, which no degrading influences have been able permanently to check." Mr. George Roberts, the geologist, assumes something of the same, when he writes, "A small amount of anthropological data accumulated already by travellers, shows that the manners, customs, and other features of the Stone Age are still existent, and that a separate scheme of progress throughout time must be drawn for every people in every land."

The "Degradation Theory" of Archbishop Whately has been contested by Sir John Lubbock, one of the ablest ethnologists