Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/274

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260
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

been seen, but, like many similar deposits in Europe and America, had been looked upon as natural beds of sea-shells deposited in past times, and after their formation elevated by upheaval. It was not until Steenstrup, of Copenhagen, first took up the critical study of similar deposits along the shores of the Baltic, and showed that the deposits were really the work of man, and of ancient man, that attention was attracted to these beds in other parts of the world.

Thanks to several years' study of these deposits along the coast of New England, in company with Prof. Jeffries Wyman, I was enabled to recognize the character of the Omori deposit at once. The railway passes directly through it, and most of it has been removed for ballasting the road. The bed evidently covered the field beyond the track for a considerable distance, judging from the quantity of shells and fragments of pottery which were strewed in the adjacent rice-field. The deposit varied from a few inches to two feet and a half in thickness, and the layer of earth above varied from two feet to nearly five feet in thickness. This great depth of soil above the shells might have been brought in by man, as the Japanese are famous for the manner in which they level the ground and fill in depressions. The thickness of soil above a deposit is always an untrustworthy guide in estimating the age of such a deposit: as, for example, the deposits about Salem, Massachusetts, containing precisely the same kinds of pottery and bone-implements, and presumably of the same age, will have in one place a thickness of two feet of soil above, and in the sterile pastures a thin layer of a few inches. The Omori deposit is made up of shells which still live in the bay of Yeddo, though I have not yet been able to study the living forms sufficiently to ascertain whether any changes have taken place in the fauna since the heaps were made. A number of genera are found, representing, among others, Eburna, Turbo, Ceritheimi Area, Pecten cardium, two species of Ostrea, and, curiously enough, large valves of the common clam, Mya arenaria, hardly to be distinguished from the same species so common along the New England coast. The position of the Omori heap is striking. The shell-heaps of New England, Florida, and nearly all places where they have been observed, are always in immediate proximity to the shore or river. In some places, as at Goose Island, Maine, the ocean encroaches upon the deposits and is gradually removing them. Rev. James Fowler, in commenting upon the absence of shell-heaps along the New Brunswick coast, offers this as one of the evidences that the sea is encroaching upon the land, and calls attention to the fact that buildings, which stood at some distance from the shore fifty years ago, have since been washed away.[1] Along the shores of the Baltic, the shell-heaps, on the contrary, are a mile or more from the shore, and this fact, with evidences of a geological character, shows a practical encroachment of the land upon the sea by upheaval since the deposits were made.

The Omori deposits, like those of the Baltic, are some distance from

  1. "Smithsonian Annual Report" for 1870, p. 389.