Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/167

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153
RECENT ANTHROPOLOGY.

It is when hard steel conies in, that weapons both of bronze and wrought iron have to yield, as when the long, soft iron broadswords of the Gauls bent at the first blow against the pikes of Flaminius's soldiers. On the whole, Professor Virchow's remarks in the "Transactions of the Berlin Anthropological Society for 1876," on the question whether it may be desirable to recognize instead of three only two ages, a Stone age and a Metal age, seem to put the matter on a fair footing. Iron may have been known as early as bronze or even earlier, but nevertheless there have been periods in the life of nations when bronze, not iron, has been the metal in use. Thus there is nothing to interfere with the facts resting on archæological evidence, that in such districts as Scandinavia or Switzerland a Stone age was at some ancient time followed by a Bronze age, and this again by an Iron age. We may notice that the latter change is what has happened in America within a few centuries, where the Mexicans and Peruvians, found by the Spaniards living in the Bronze age, were moved on into the Iron age. But the question is whether we are to accept as a general principle in history the doctrine expounded in the poem of Lucretius, that men first used boughs and stones, that then the use of bronze became known, and lastly iron was discovered. As the evidence stands now, the priority of the Stone age to the Metal age is more firmly established than ever, but the origin of both bronze and iron is lost in antiquity, and we have no certain proof which came first.

Passing to another topic of our science, it is satisfactory to see with what activity the comparative study of laws and customs, to which Sir Henry Maine gave a new starting-point in England, is now pursued. The remarkable inquiry into the very foundations of society in the structure of the family, set afoot by Bachofen in his "Mütterrecht," and McLennan in his "Primitive Marriage," is now bringing in every year new material. Mr. L. H. Morgan, who, as an adopted Iroquois, became long ago familiar with the marriage laws and ideas of kinship of uncultured races, so unlike those of the civilized world, has lately made, in his "Ancient Society," a bold attempt to solve the whole difficult problem of the development of social life. I will not attempt here any criticism of the views of these and other writers on a problem where the last word has certainly not been said. My object in touching the subject is to mention the curious evidence that can still be given by rude races as to their former social ties, in traditions which will be forgotten in another generation of civilized life, but may still be traced by missionaries and others who know what to seek for. Thus, such inquiry in Polynesia discloses remarkable traces of a prevalent marriage-tie which was at once polygamous and polyandrous, as where a family of brothers were married jointly to a family of sisters; and I have just noticed in a recent volume on "Native Tribes of South Australia," a mention of a similar state of things oc-