Page:The Aborigines of Australia (1988).djvu/11

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iv
PREFACE

fittingly supply a companion book to that in which he has told the story of European settlement on the shores of Australia.

The science of ethnology has made considerable strides during the period which has elapsed since these studies first saw the light. With the aid of philology, it has cleared up much, in regard of racial problems, that had previously seemed impenetrably obscure; but it cannot be said to have shed any great amount of new light on the origin of the race in question. Conjecture, more or less vague, is mainly what the inquirer has to depend on for guidance. Opinions as to what particular branch of the human family the Australian aboriginal belongs differ almost as widely now as when Mr. Flanagan discussed the matter, thirty-five years ago. The view which he took was, as will be seen, that at some period "in the dark backward and abysm of time," and prior to their arrival in Australia, these people had possibly possessed at least a few germs of civilization, which it was also possible to conceive as having been soon lost under the conditions which the struggle for existence imposed on them in their new home. Be this as it may, it is generally admitted at the present day that the natural intelligence of the aboriginal natives of Australia is by no means of a despicable order, and that they can boast of not a few qualities deserving of more careful development than they have commonly received at the hands of the white man. Such facts lend additional melancholy to the spectacle of