Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/45

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35
THE GLACIAL MAN IN AMERICA.

The notion that man in that remote age could not navigate great seas is simply a notion, and likewise it is a notion that more than anything else prevents the advance of scientific inquiry respecting the early colonization of America. Two men in a skiff to-day navigate the entire breadth of the Atlantic, but such a feat forms no new thing under the sun. In the glacial age communication between Europe and America may have been more easy than is now suspected, while a large portion of the journey may have been made over fields of ice. The passage of the glacial man from Europe possibly presented no greater difficulties than the migration of the Esquimaux from Labrador to Greenland. But, however man may have reached America, the theory that the Indian peoples sprang from any glacial stock seems untenable. This, then, necessitates the inquiry respecting the subsequent history of the primitive inhabitant; otherwise, what became of him?

That a people corresponding in the main to the supposed glacial man once dwelt as far south as New Jersey has been agreed by various writers, without any reference to the contents of the glacial deposits, of whose existence they did not dream. When, for instance, we turn to the Icelandic Sagas relating to America, it becomes apparent that the Esquimaux once flourished low down upon the Atlantic coast.

At the present time historians agree, with great unanimity, that the continent of America was visited during the tenth and eleventh centuries by Icelanders resident in Greenland. That country was colonized by the Icelanders in the year 985, and when Eric the Red entered Greenland he found no inhabitants. The third Greenland "Narrative," however, says: "They found there, both east and west, ruins of houses and pieces of boats and stone-work begun. From which it is to be seen what kind of people lived in Vinland, and which the Greenlanders call Skrællings, and who have been there."[1] Thus at that early period the remains in Greenland were identified as works peculiar to the people of Vinland, a region, according to the Sagas, lying southward toward the forty-first parallel.

The account of what the Icelanders saw in Vinland is found in the narratives of Leif and others. In 986 one Biarne, when sailing for Greenland, was blown upon the American coast, and upon his return carried the report of the country to Greenland. In the year 1000, Leif Erickson resolved to visit the region seen by Biarne, and, sailing southward from Greenland, reached the place. The narrative says: "The country appeared to them of so good a kind that it would not be necessary for them to gather fodder for the cattle in winter. There was no frost in winter, and the grass was not much withered." The observation that there was no frost was simply an exaggeration natural to an Icelander coming into a country with a climate so unlike that to which he had been accustomed. Morton wrote home to Eng-

  1. "Pre-Columbian Discovery of America by the Northmen," p. 20.