Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/216

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
202
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
THE STONE AGE IN EGYPT.
By J. DE MORGAN.

THE investigation of the origin of man in Egypt is a very complex problem, belonging as much to geology as to archæology. The earliest evidences we have of human industry, in fact, go back to so remote a period that they should be regarded rather as fossils than as archaeological documents. They are very coarsely worked flints, which are found near the surface of the ground among the pebbles of the Quaternary or Pleistocene epoch, and similar to those which occur abundantly in Europe, America, and Asia; but the study and collection of them have been pursued with less method than in those countries. The more recent monuments, so much more conspicuous and more easily accessible, have attracted most attention, while these have been left in the background.

No region in the world presents a clearer and more distinct individual character than Egypt. Each village is a special world, each valley a universe that has developed its own life; and man has felt the special local impressions; and even in modern times, while all the Egyptian villages present a similar aspect, and although the fellah appears to be the same sort of a man everywhere, each locality has its special individual characteristics. One who knows how to observe men and things critically will find considerable differences. These dissimilarities are as old as Egypt itself. They have always existed, and are as much more intense as the communications between district and district were formerly more difficult. They are due to physical conditions special to each village, to the prevailing winds, the form and character of the mountains, the extent of cultivable lands, and the supply of water. A study of the detail of the country is a very important preliminary to the examination of Egyptian history. Every village and every nome had formerly its special divinity and its particular usages. Are we sure that the gods and customs were not imposed by local conditions? At Ombos two hostile gods were adored in the same temple. May we not see in this fact a recollection of the hostility which has always prevailed between the inhabitants of the two banks of the river, and still continues?

Previous, however, to investigating these details which have been so influential on Egyptian civilization, we ought to dispel the darkness which hides from us the earliest traces of man in the valley of the Nile, and examine how man lived in his beginning, to study the geology of the country and its condition when it issued from the seas. As one of the results of this study we find that palæolithic