Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/269

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SPELEOLOGY, OR CAVE EXPLORATION.

European skull is ninety-three inches in bulk."[1] The author was informed by Mr. Lucien Carr, of the Ethnological Museum of Harvard University, that the capacity of the Peruvian skulls was about one hundred centimetres smaller than that of the skulls of any other people living in America at the same time. Yet that small-headed people was the most highly civilized of all.

 
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SPELEOLOGY, OR CAVE EXPLORATION.[2]
By M. E. A. MARTEL.

THE not very graceful word speleology was composed a few years ago by M. Émile Rivière out of Greek elements, as a translation of the German Höhlenkunde, to signify the study of caves. The study claims a place among the sciences, and is, I believe, able to justify its claim. Caves have been subjects of interest and curiosity in all times and countries. In the primitive ages, when palæolithic man was obliged to defend himself against the large Quaternary wild beasts, and did not yet know how to construct cabins, he lived in the most inaccessible caves, or those easiest to close, which he could find. Afterward, when man had advanced in civilization to the neolithic stage, and had somewhat improved tools and arms, having learned to build huts and villages, caves became simply burial places. In the historical periods of antiquity they were transformed into pagan sanctuaries or temporary hiding places in times of revolt, civil war, or invasion. Down to the middle ages and the renascence, they shared this function with abandoned quarries. Through these changes they gradually became objects of popular fear and absurd legend. I have nearly everywhere in France found legendary and profound belief in some monstrous basilisk or dragon in the depths of dark caverns, guarding immense treasures; and woe to the rash adventurer who tried to steal these riches!

In short, caves have suffered their vicissitudes; their use as habitations seems to be inversely proportioned to the degree of civilization. The miserable aborigines of Australia have not yet quite abandoned them; and in France the present occupation of the grottoes of Ezy, in the Eure, by some outcast families, who lead a sordid existence in them, indifferent to all social conventions, has recently been cited as an extremely curious anthropological phenomenon.

Science, too, has laid its hold on caves only within a little more than a century; for it was not till 1774 that Esper recognized that

  1. Eclectic Magazine, December 14, 1863, p. 428.
  2. From an address before the Société des Amis des Sciences.