Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/37

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CAVE DWELLINGS OF MEN.
CAVE DWELLINGS OF MEN.

By W. H. LARRABEE.

STORIES of men who lived or worked in caves abound in history, mythology, and folk-lore tales. The youthful imagination is charmed with accounts of robbers' caves, from that of the forty thieves down to those described in Gil Bias and those which are associated with the robber period of the history of the Mississippi Valley. Mythology furnishes caves of giants, those to which heroes have resorted, and the homes of supernatural beings or of gnomes like the Niebelungen and the "little people." Such stories are suggested by the obvious fact that a cave may afford a safe and convenient place of refuge when no better is at hand; and their imaginative features are the outcome of the rarity or remoteness of experiences of cave-life within historic times — distance lending enchantment to the view.

Tribes of cave-dwelling men, or troglodytes, are described by ancient writers as having lived in Egypt, Ethiopia, on the borders of the Red Sea, and in the Caucasus. The Red Sea region was called by the Greeks from this fact Troglodytice. Some of the ancient caves in Arabia are still occupied by Bedouins.

The caves of the troglodytes near Ain Tarsil, in Morocco, which have been visited by Balanza and Sir Joseph Hooker, and described by a correspondent of the London Times, are situated in a narrow gorge, the cliffs of which rise almost perpendicularly from a deep valley, and are cut in the solid rock at a considerable height from the ground. In some places they are in single tiers, and in other places two or three tiers, one above the other, and inaccessible except by ropes and ladders. The entrances give access to rooms of comfortable size, furnished with windows, which were in some cases connected with other smaller rooms, also furnished with windows. The appearance of the caves, attesting that great pains were taken to secure comfort, is hardly consistent with the conception of the troglodytes as savages, which has been drawn from Hanno's account of them. Caves have been much used for burials, and have suggested the form of various artificial burial-places. The ancient Egyptians used natural caves or hollowed out artificial ones, preparing elaborate suites of chambers, ante-chambers, and recesses, and adorning them with brilliant paintings and art-works of religious significance. The recovery and exploration of these tombs constitute one of the most interesting and profitable branches of modern archaeological research. The most ancient real-estate transaction recorded in a historical book is the purchase of the cave of Machpelah from the children of Heth by Abraham, to be his family burial-place; and it is still