Popular Science Monthly/Volume 16/January 1880/On the Migrations of Races

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IN endeavoring to subject this question to a brief examination, it must be previously understood that we only refer to those migrations which explain the distribution of existing and contemporaneous races and peoples, and such as can be deduced with some certainty from acknowledged facts. Neither will we consider migrations of individual races from some hypothetical ethnic center, nor those which many tribes have made that at present no longer exist. Except the aborigines of Australia, every people has undertaken migrations of greater or less extent, and many weighty reasons can be given to explain why the Australian has not ventured outside of his primitive abode. In the first place, from the very character of his country, through the absence of those animals and plants which contribute to enjoyment and prosperity, he had not raised himself to a knowledge of the pleasures of living incident to an advancing culture; and, in the second place, the country was itself large enough to contain the limited number of inhabitants, and to satisfy their simple wants. Whether the immediate neighbors of the Australian—the Papuans—have ever undertaken migrations is questionable; on account of the circumstance that they universally inhabit islands, and their dwellings built along the coasts resemble the pile-villages discovered in central Europe, it is easier to say they did migrate than to deny it. Yet the whole question is most intimately united to another, viz.. Shall we consider that the ancient continent, of which the islands of the Indian Archipelago are fragments, was already peopled before its submergence, or were these separate islands successively occupied by expansion from some center?

None of the known races has undertaken so extended a migration as the Malayan. The distribution of this race from Madagascar in the west to Easter Island in the east, and from the Sandwich Islands in the north to New Zealand in the south, illustrates this. Notwithstanding its extent, this dispersion is traced from an ascertained point to the several islands as the traditions of each and the related character of the idioms of the individual branches unanswerably demonstrate,

Africa shelters at present five races distinct from one another, viz., the Hottentot in the extreme south and southwest, the Caffre, spread northward from the Hottentot, as far as and beyond the equator, the negro races in the so-called Soudan, the Fellahs inclosed between the negroes and reaching from east to west in a straight line, and the central races spread from the north and northeast to the equator.

Of these five races, the first four only can be regarded as autochthonous, while the last, comprising well-established groups, migrated from Asia.

The Hottentots were formerly the exclusive inhabitants of southeasterly parts of Africa, from the Cape up to 18° or 19° south latitude. They were driven from their settlements by the invading Caffres streaming from the north, and at first were pressed back into the most southerly regions, and then later from this extremity northward along the west coast until they fixed themselves in the districts they now occupy. The northern neighbors of the Hottentots, the Caffres, are not aboriginal in the southern country, where at present they most numerously exist, but have immigrated here. They settled originally farther north, and stood in close relations for a long period with the Hamitic peoples, which migrated from Asia, as is clearly shown by their idioms. Since by reason of their type and intimate relationship they could not, for any length of time, have been separated by their primitive languages, which were continually approximating, they may have formed an individual group at the time of the invasion of the Hamites from the north into Africa; but they exhibit, in fact, so close points of resemblance with the Hamitic idioms that, without attributing this to direct contact, the coincidence appears inexplicable. Besides this drift from the north to the south, which is established from already ascertained facts, another from east to west diagonally across the continent was later instituted. From this circumstance it happens that the language of many stocks in the extreme northwest of the Caffre area show the most intimate relationship with those of the extreme northeast — a relationship not to be accounted for by a reference of both to the primitive tongue common to the Caffre or Bantu tribes, but completely through derivation from a branch of this original speech.

That the Fellah races are not aboriginal in those regions which they at present occupy is proved by their distribution among the negro races. Such a stratification of two races can not be aboriginal, but indicates distinct migrations of each. According to our view, the Fellah originally settled north of the negroes, probably in the territory now possessed by the Berbers, and pressed from the northwest into the land occupied by them, whence they spread toward the east to Nubia. This opinion is confirmed by the close relationship of the Fellah races with the central tribes, which appears to demonstrate an intermixture, as also by the many points of resemblance which the Fellah idioms offer to the Hamitic tongue.

That the individual peoples into which the negro race is divided have undertaken many migrations is at the very outset established by the great number of stocks, which are linguistically distinct, and of which only a few show any relationship with each other. Slavery may have contributed not a little to assist this dispersion, as that institution is by no means an invention of white men, but was long practiced by the blacks among themselves. It is not infrequent to see many negro tribes experience, through expulsion from their home, the same fate which among us overtook the Jews and Armenians.

These migrations of the four aboriginal races of Africa were not voluntary, but were pursued under the pressure of external circumstances. It certainly was owing to the immigration en masse of the central races, and especially the Hamitic stock, that compelled the aborigines of Africa to recede before their mentally and bodily superior invaders, and withdraw to the south of the continent. The inception of these emigrations is of great antiquity, and may be approximately described as follows:

The Egyptians were the last of the immigrated Hamitic stock, as we find them located immediately on the boundary of Suez, over which arm of land the migrations found their path. The accepted history of the Egyptians goes back four thousand years before Christ, at which time they had already erected a monarchical unit based on a highly developed culture. After allowing the shortest possible time for the Egyptians to have developed their culture from the rude beginnings to that height which is noticed in their monuments, viz., one thousand years, we find the year 5000 B. C. the latest date for their entry into Africa. Now, before the Egyptians, their relatives, the Berbers, with their collateral branch, the extinct Guanches, the Bedsha, the Somali, the Dankali, the Galla, and other tribes, wandered into Africa, and as ethnic movements are customarily slow and successional in nature, we may take one thousand years for the migration period. Thus at the lowest reckoning we reach the year 6000 B. C. from which we can date the movements of the autochthonous races of Africa.

As to the New World, according to our own view and that of other inquirers, at least two distinct races are represented, viz., the Esquimau in the extreme north, and the Indian distributed from the settlements of the Esquimau down to the extreme south. Other students take the ground that the type which we have named the Indian should be split up into many races, how many is not agreed. Whatever the facts in regard to this, all agree that the Esquimau is to be sharply separated from the Indian, and that he is not autochthonous in the New World, but a recent immigrant from the extreme north of Asia.

Among the Indian races, of whom only a few can be united linguistically in groups — as in respect to language the same heterogeneity prevails in America as among the negroes of Africa — still further migrations have been undertaken. These can easily be traced to their objective points. In North America such a point is the fruitful table-land of Mexico, toward which that stem, which in the north had attained among its kindred to a higher culture and greater strength, directed its victorious march. We find here many succeeding peoples of whom it is as yet not clearly shown whether they were fundamentally distinct, or in some particulars structurally related. The last of these invaders, the Aztecs, came from the north, and, as the language proves, are represented there to-day. According to the most recent investigations, the gigantic mounds which are found in North America are to be attributed to a people nearly related to the Aztecs of Mexico, and represent the rude precursors of the colossal structures of Central America. At any rate we must recognize in the northern division of the American Continent an ethnic drift whose direction was from north to south.

As to South America, the plateaux of Peru formed the destination of the migrations, as did Mexico in North America. Here also we encounter successive peoples, the last of whom — the conquering Incas — were found by the Spaniards on the discovery of Peru. Like the Aztecs in Mexico, the Quichuas were in no respect the originators of the indigenous culture, but have appropriated the same from a nation which preceded them. Although it is not improbable that the civilization of Mexico and Peru is at bottom congenital, as old elements of civilization could have been transported over the isthmus and on either side independently developed — in such a case the Muisca of Colombia might have formed the intermediate link — yet it is certain that the Mexicans and Peruvians were isolated, and as in the Old World with China and the rest of Asia, the one had no positive knowledge of the civilization of the other.

In regard to the two continents of Europe and Asia, which in fact form but one, inasmuch as the separation by the chain of mountains lying between them could not serve as an isolating boundary, we recognize, apart from the early Malayan, four autochthonous races, viz.: the Hyperboreans in the extreme north, stretching along the borders of the Arctic Sea; the Dravida race, in southern India; the Upper Asiatic race, filling central and eastern Asia; and, finally, the midland races, which at present occupy the south of Asia from India westward, the northeast and north of Africa, and, with the exception of the extreme north and some spots in the middle and south, all Europe.

The Hyperborean race was formerly much more imposing than it is at present, reduced as it is to an insignificant remnant. They formerly settled farther south, and were pushed to the extreme north by the expanding Upper Asiatic race. The circumstance of finding in central Asia representatives of this race, though to be sure deprived in large measure of their national characteristics, confirms this. We refer to the Yenisei Ostiaks, together with other small stems which are philologically diverse from the Ural Altaians, and presumably are allied to the Yukagiren, Koriaks, Tchuktchis, and Ainos.

The Dravida race once possessed all India from Cape Comorin to the Himalayas, and spread also across the Indus out to Beloochistan. Invaded by the immigrating Aryans, they were forced southward, until finally they contracted their limits within the southern half of the Indian Peninsula, the so-called Deccan.

That this race formerly reached so far northward as we have indicated is proved by the Brahuis in Beloochistan, whose existence in this country can only be accounted for by such an hypothesis. The beginning of the migrations of the Dravida race coincides with the appearance of the Aryan in the Punjaub and may be placed somewhere about the year 2000 B. C.

Central Asia must be considered the early home of the so-called Mongolian, more properly Upper Asiatic race. From this point this race radiated in all directions, but predominantly to the east and south. The leading people of this race, the Chinese, according to ancient traditions, came from the west into the great valleys of the Hoang-ho and Yang-tse-Kiang. But before them this region was already occupied by another people, as their vestiges, seen in the so-called Miao-tse, demonstrate. This stem is not, as we know now, a member of a distinct race, but only of a separate people, and is allied to the people of upper India, especially to the Thai. Thus, before the migration of the Chinese, itself hidden in a gray antiquity, there took place another migration of the aborigines of China belonging to this same race.

The inhabitants of Japan are also not autochthonous, but have immigrated from the west. They found on their settlement here natives who were, in their physical features, very distinct from the intruders. Indeed, the fact that in the southern districts the color of the skin of the inhabitants is dark, and their hair somewhat curly, points to a mixture with a darker race. It is not improbable that the Papuan race, whose existence on the Philippine Islands, and perhaps also on Formosa, has been established, diffused themselves originally as far as Japan.

The migration of the Upper Asiatic race to the west must have begun early, as we already find in the far past the Lapps and Finns in northern and northeastern Europe, peoples belonging to this race. It is not improbable that this race before the entrance of the Celts into Europe occupied the entire north and northeast, and possibly also a great part of central Europe. Many writers consider the people who used unpolished stone implements and weapons, found in northern and middle Europe, as being a branch of the Mongolian race.

Hence Europe may have been inhabited by only two races before the entrance of the Indo-Europeans, which latter is coincident with the appearance of the Etruscans and Celts, viz., by the Basques and Ligurians — a people of unknown ethnological character in the south, and the Upper Asiatic stems in the north. This settlement of the Upper Asiatic race in Europe, long before the immigration of the Indo-Europeans, presumes a migration of the former in the earliest dawn of antiquity.

In our opinion, it was this race which first gave the migratory impulse to the men inhabiting the Old World. The members of this race are well known to be almost exclusively nomads, whose support is derived from the abundance of their herds and the fertility of their pastures. It would only need one bad year, or a plague among their flocks, to constrain these powerful hordes to invade the territory of their neighbors and expel them from their lands. These latter were compelled in a similar manner to press upon their neighbors, whereupon the various tribes were set in motion upon every side.

If we regard the Indo-Europeans as neighbors of the Upper Asiatics, and the Semitic and Hamitic peoples next to them, we can understand how in consequence of a pressure of the Upper Asiatics on the Indo-Europeans these must again impinge upon the Semitic and Hamitic race. Whereas the latter were pushed toward Africa, where they imparted their migratory motion to the autochthonous races, as described above, the Semitic pressed into the seats occupied before by the Hamites, and allowed the Indo-Europeans room to expand unhindered east and west. Thus they in turn urged the Dravidas on one side into India, and on the other various tribes into Europe, compelling those migrations which we have briefly sketched above.

After this first migration of the Upper Asiatic races, which occurred before the commencement of the civilizations of China and Egypt, we encounter a second which originated those commonly known ethnic movements which can be more closely followed, as they fall within the historic period.

In consequence of this migration, the Hungarians and Osmanli reached the grounds occupied by them, and there was caused, through the entrance of the Germanic and Slavic peoples into the heart of Europe, that intermixture in consequence of which the Roman people arose, and the various Germanic and Slavic tribes attained their marked individuality.

As to the last of the races, the central or midland, it appears that their primitive scats should be looked for in the Armenian highlands. The migration from this center of the four branches of this race, viz., the Basques, the so-called Caucasians, the Hamito-Semites, and the Indo-Europeans, can thus be easily understood, though the displacement of this original seat farther east would certainly make the distribution of the Indo-Europeans, if not that of the other three, more comprehensible.

From the midland tribes the Basques first separated, turning toward the west, to Europe; the Caucasians followed, and their hordes, pushing to the north, found in the mountains of Caucasus a barrier which permitted them to extend their limits but slowly. The two remaining clans, viz., the Hamito-Semitic and Indo-Europeans, were for a considerable period neighbors, which is confirmed by the intimate correspondence of their religious and tribal traditions, so that, even after a separation, the Hamites and Semites yet formed an indissoluble unit. Their identity continued during the period of speech-growth, and was first lost when, through the pressure of the Upper Asiatic bands, the Hamites were sundered from the Semites, and were pushed on one side into the region bordering the Tigris and Euphrates, and on the other into Africa.

As we have already considered the immigration of the Hamites into the north of Africa in reviewing the peoples of this continent, there only remain to be examined the Semitic and Indo-European stocks.

Everywhere where the Semites appear we find them successors of the Hamites. It is so in Mesopotamia, in Palestine, in north Africa, presumably in Arabia, as it would seem from the dialects retained in south Arabia, entirely distinct from the Arabian tongue, and, lastly, in Abyssinia, a settlement effected from southwestern Arabia and across the Red Sea. In most places the Hamitic cultus disappears, ethnologically speaking, in that of the Semites, only leaving traces of its influence behind in the national characteristics. So in Mesopotamia, in Palestine — the Phœnicians are, for instance, Semiticized Hamites — in Abyssinia. And only when we know that the inhabitants of Mesopotamia are Semiticized Hamites is the harmony or coincidence of the Assyrian-Babylonian culture (Semitic) with that of the Egyptian (Hamitic) explained.

As regards the Indo-Europeans, we have first sought their aboriginal center about the sources of the Oxus and the Jaxartes, on the table-lands of Pamir, presumably because this point is nearest to the homes of two of the most easterly removed branches of this stock, viz., the Iranians and the Indians, and both these people certainly entered their territory from the northwest and northeast. But of late it has not unreasonably been insisted that the vocabulary of the Indo-European affords no evidence which intimates an acquaintance with the fauna and flora of Asia. On the contrary, the names of most trees known to all the Indo-European peoples, as birch, beech, oak, point rather to eastern Europe than to Asia. Therefore many authorities incline to locate the primitive home of the Indo-Europeans, or that point where they last composed an homogeneous unit, in the Lithuanian-Russian plains, or even farther west.

When, in conformity with this view, which has a very strong likelihood in its favor, we assume the original center of the Indo-Europeans to have been in southeastern Europe, then we can not but regard them as autochthonous at this point, yet as having first reached here from the Armenian highlands in the indefinite past. We are driven to this hypothesis by the racial unity of the Indo-Europeans with the Hamito-Semitic and Caucasian stocks, for it is impossible for both to have emigrated from the west into the highlands overlying Mesopotamia.

As is known, the Indo-Europeans are subdivided into eight groups, viz., Indians, Iranians, Thracian-Illyrians — whose fragments may be identified with the modern Arnauts, Albanians, or Skipetars — Greeks, Italians, Celts, Slaves, and Germans; which, again, according as they were earlier or later sundered from the common tree, or have among each other formed a single society a longer or shorter time, separate into subordinate groups. A. Schleicher, who has with especial assiduity pursued this inquiry, conceives in the first place that the Indo-Europeans split into two groups, viz., Germanians and Slaves on one side, and Aryans (Indians or Iranians), Greeks, Italians, and Celts on the other, whereby the Thracian-Illyrians are numbered among the Greeks. Later, on one side, the Germans divided from the Slaves, on the other the Aryans from the remaining three stems, and then that group in the same way disintegrated.

Many weighty considerations oppose this view of Schleicher's, and we shall permit ourselves briefly to explain our theory, which rests upon a careful examination of these very facts. According to our view, the Thracian-Illyrians first broke away from the common stock and withdrew southward, where they took possession of the Balkan Peninsula and the coasts along Italy. Later the original body split into two parts, viz., on one side the Celts, Italians, and Greeks, on the other Aryans, Slaves, and Germans. Thereupon the Celts separated from the first group, going westward, while the Italians and Greeks yet remained together for some time ; in the same way the Germans separated from the Aryans and Slaves, turning northward. Finally the Italians parted from the Greeks, and the Slaves from the Aryans, which on their side again divided into Iranians and Indians. But, in spite of this concentric diffusion, many nations maintained an intimate union, as the Italians and Greeks, the Iranians and Indians, the Slaves and the Germans, whereby many points of contact in the social habits of these peoples were instituted. These resemblances, secured after the primal separation, are not to be confounded with the fundamental features held in common and extending back anterior to their subdivisions.

After this briefly outlined family tree of the Indo-Europeans, the peoples embraced therein undertook important migrations. There was an easterly migration of the Iranians, to whom belong the modern Persians, Kurds, Ossets, Armenians, Beloochees, and Afghans, and among whom in ancient times most of the peoples in Asia Minor were numbered, as the Phrygians, Cappadocians, and the Indians who at present occupy the peninsula of India from the north to the Deccan, with the exception of the territory in the mountainous interior. Far west and southwest the Celts first spread, when they came upon the Basques and Ligurians and ousted them; later came the Italians, spreading themselves from their peninsula outward, through the triumphs of Roman arms, over the whole of southwest Europe, invading the Celts; and finally appear the Germans and Slaves, the two mightiest peoples of to-day.

In conjunction with these migrations of races, widely extended wanderings are apparent among the related divisions of the central or midland races, and especially of the Semites and Indo-Europeans, which wanderings are conjoined with the sad fate of the peoples concerned.

The fate of the Jews is well known, at present scattered over the whole world as traders and bankers. The Phœnicians played the same rôle in antiquity as the Jews in modern times; we find them everywhere at that time, wherever the country was open to commerce. The Armenians, among the Indo-Europeans, may be compared with the Semitic Jews. The migrations of the Armenians, who like the Jews have no particular fatherland and in great measure live by traffic, are in no way behind those of the Jews; besides, the history of both people has a great resemblance, as in large part their movements have been the result of religious persecution.

A people who have migrated widely are the notorious gypsies. According to their descent, the gypsies, who call themselves Roman, are Indian. They speak an idiom which finds a relative in the present dialect of India — the Enkelinnen of the noble Veda tongue. Indeed, there is impressed on this idiom a mixture of foreign elements from all the tongues of Asia and Europe, through whose areas the fugitives passed. We find in it Persian, Armenian, Greek, Magyar, Slavonic, German, and Roman terms, and increasingly as we follow the jargon westward. In every country that the gypsy has reached, he has picked up morsels and incorporated them in his own idioms. But these very philological fragments are of the greatest value to the student, as they surely indicate to him the road which the fugitive from the far East has pursued in his migration.

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  1. Translated from the “Allgemeine Ethnographie,” by L. P. Gratacap.