Popular Science Monthly/Volume 42/January 1893/The Study of Man
|←New Chapters in the Warfare of Science: Chemistry and Physics II||Popular Science Monthly Volume 42 January 1893 (1893)
The Study of Man
By Alexander Macalister
|Some Vegetable Malformations→|
ON an irregular and unfenced patch of waste land, situated on the outskirts of a small town in which I spent part of my boyhood, there stood a notice hoard bearing the inscription, "A Free Coup," which, when translated into the language of the southron, conveyed the intimation, "Rubbish may be shot here." This place, with its ragged mounds of unconsidered trifles, the refuse of the surrounding households, was the favorite playground of the children of the neighborhood, who found a treasury of toys in the broken tiles and oyster-shells, the crockery and cabbage-stalks, which were liberally scattered around. Many a make-believe house and road, and even village, was constructed by these mimic builders out of this varied material, which their busy little feet had trodden down until its undulated surface assumed a fairly coherent consistence.
Passing by this place ten years later I found that its aspect had changed; terraces of small houses had sprung up, mushroomlike, on the unsavory foundation of heterogeneous refuse. Still more recently I notice that these in their turn have been swept away, and now a large factory, wherein some of the most ingenious productions of human skill are constructed, occupies the site of the original waste.
This commonplace history is, in a sense, a parable in which is set forth the past, present, and possible future of that accumulation of lore in reference to humanity to which is given the name Anthropology, and for the study of which this section of our Association is set apart. At first nothing better than a heap of heterogeneous facts and fancies, the leavings of the historian, of the adventurer, of the missionary, it has been for long, and alas is still, the favorite playground of dilettanti of various degrees of seriousness. But upon this foundation there is rapidly rising a more comely superstructure, fairer to see than the original chaos, but still bearing marks of transitoriness and imperfection, and I dare hazard the prediction that this is destined in the course of time to give place to the more solid fabric of a real science of anthropology.
We cannot yet claim that our subject is a real science in the sense in which that name is applied to those branches of knowledge, founded upon ascertained laws, which form the subjects of most of our sister sections; but we can justify our separate existence, in that we are honestly endeavoring to lay a definite and stable foundation, upon which in time to come a scientific anthropology may be based.
The materials with which we have to do are fully as varied as were those in my illustration, for we as anthropologists take for our motto the sentiment of Chremes, so often quoted in this section, humani nihil a nobis alienum putamus (we think nothing human foreign to us), and they are too often fully as fragmentary. The bones, weapons, and pottery which form our only sources of knowledge concerning prehistoric races of men, generally come to us as much altered from their original forms as are the rusty polyhedra which once were the receptacles of or sardines. The traditions, customs, and scraps of folk lore which are treasures to the constructive anthropologist, are usually discovered as empty shells, in form as much altered from their original conditions as are those smooth fragments of hollow white cylinders which once held the delicate products of the factory of Keiller or Cairns.
I have said that anthropology has not yet made good its title to be ranked as an independent science. This is indicated by the difficulty of framing a definition at the same time comprehensive and distinctive. Mr. Galton characterizes it as the study of what men are in body and mind, how they came to be what they are, and whither the race is tending; General Pitt-Rivers, as the science which ascertains the true causes for all the phenomena of human life. I shall not try to improve upon these definitions, although they both are manifestly defective. On the one side our subject is a branch of biology, but we are more than biologists compiling a monograph on the natural history of our species, as M. de Quatrefages would have it. Many of the problems with which we deal are common to us and to psychologists; others are common to us and to students of history, of sociology, of philology, and of religion; and, in addition, we have to treat of a large number of other matters æsthetic, artistic, and technical, which it is difficult to range under any subordinate category.
In view of the encyclopedic range of knowledge necessary for the equipment of an accomplished anthropologist, it is little wonder that we should be, as we indeed are, little better than smatterers. Its many-sided affinities, its want of definite limitation, and the recent date of its admission to the position of an independent branch of knowledge, have hitherto caused anthropology to fare badly in our universities. In this respect, however, we are improving, and now in the two great English universities there are departments for the study of the natural history of man and of his works.
Out of the great assemblage of topics which come within our sphere, I can only select a few which seem at present to demand special consideration. The annual growth of our knowledge is chiefly in matters of detail which are dull to chronicle, and the past year has not been fertile in discoveries bearing on those great questions which are of popular interest.
On the subject of the antiquity of man there are no fresh discoveries of serious importance to record. My esteemed predecessor at the Leeds meeting two years ago, after reviewing the evidence as to the earliest traces of humanity, concluded his survey with the judgment, "On the whole, therefore, it appears to me that the present verdict as to Tertiary man must be in the form of 'Not proven.'" Subsequent research has not contributed any new facts which lead us to modify that finding. The most remarkable of the recent discoveries under this head is that of the rude implements of the Kentish chalk-plateau described by Prof. Prestwich; but while these are evidently of archaic types, it must be admitted that there is even yet room for difference of opinion as to their exact geological age.
Neither has the past year's record shed new light on the darkness which enshrouds the origin of man. What the future may have in store for us in the way of discovery we can not forecast; at present we have nothing but hypothesis, and we must still wait for further knowledge with the calmness of philosophic expectancy.
I may, however, in this connection refer to the singularly interesting observations of Dr. Louis Robinson on the prehensile power of the hands of children at birth, and to the graphic pictures with which he has illustrated his paper. Dr. Robinson has drawn, from the study of the one end of life, the same conclusion which Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson deduced from the study of his grandfather, that there still survive in the human structure and habit traces of our probably arboreal ancestry.
Turning from these unsolved riddles of the past to the survey of mankind as it appears to us in the present, we are confronted in that wide range of outlook with many problems well-nigh as difficult and obscure.
Mankind, whenever and however it may have originated, appears to us at present as an assemblage of tribes, each not necessarily homogeneous, as their component elements may be derived from diverse genealogical lines of descent. It is much to be regretted that there is not in our literature a more definite nomenclature for these divisions of mankind, and that such words as race, people, nationality, tribe, and type are often used indiscriminately as though they were synonyms.
In the great mass of knowledge with which we deal there are several collateral series of facts, the terminologies of which should be discriminated. In the first place there are those ethnic conditions existing now, or at any other point in time, whereby the individuals of mankind are grouped into categories of different comprehension, as clans or families, as tribes or groups of allied clans, and as nations, the inhabitants of restricted areas under one political organization. This side of our subject constitutes ethnology.
In the second place, the individuals of mankind may be regarded as the descendants of a limited number of original parents, and consequently each person has his place on the genealogical tree of humanity. As the successive branches became in their dispersion subjected to the influences of diverse environments, they have eventually differentiated in characteristics. To each of these subdivisions of the phylum thus differentiated the name race may appropriately be restricted, and the sum of the peculiarities of each race may be termed race-characters. This is the phylogenetic side of anthropology, and its nomenclature should be kept clearly separate from that of the ethnological side. The great and growing literature of anthropology consists largely of the records of attempts to discover and formulate these distinctive race-characters. Race and tribe may be terms of equal extension, but the standpoint from which these categories are viewed is essentially different in the two cases.
There is yet a third series of names in common use in descriptive anthropology. The languages in use among men are unfortunately numerous, and as the component individuals in each community usually speak a common language, the mistake is often made of confounding the tribal name with that of the tribal language. Sometimes these categories are coextensive; but it is not always so, for it is a matter of history that communities have been led to adopt new languages from considerations quite independent of phylogenetic or ethnic conditions. These linguistic terms should not be confounded with the names in either of the other series, for, as my learned predecessor once said in a presidential address, it is as absurd to speak of an Aryan skull as it would be to say that a family spoke a brachycephalic language.
In the one clan there may be, by intermarriage, the representatives of different races; in the one nation there may be dissimilar tribes, each derived by composite lines of ancestry from divergent phyla, yet all speaking the same language.
We have an excellent illustration of the confusion resulting from this disregard of precision in the case of the word Celtic, a term which has sometimes been employed as an ethnic, sometimes as a phylogenetic, and sometimes as a linguistic species. In the last-named sense, that to which I believe the use of the name should be restricted, it is the appropriate designation of a group of cognate languages spoken by peoples whose physical characters show that they are not the descendants of one common phylum in the near past. There are fair-haired, long-headed families in Scotland and Ireland; fair, broad-headed Bretons; dark-haired, round-headed Welshmen; and dark-haired, long-headed people in the outer Hebrides, McLeans, "Sancho Panza type"—men obviously of different races, who differ not only in color, stature, and skull-form, but whose traditions also point to a composite descent, and yet all originally speaking a Celtic tongue. The use of the word Celtic, as if it were the name of a phylogenetic species, has naturally led to hopeless confusion in the attempts to formulate race-characters for the Celtic skull—confusions of a kind which tend to bring physical anthropology into discredit. Thus Retzius characterizes the Celtic crania as being dolichocephalic, and compares them with those of the modern Scandinavians. Sir Daniel Wilson considers the true Celtic type of skull as intermediate between the dolichocephalic and the brachycephali; and Topinard figures as the typical Celtic skull that of an Auvergnat, extremely brachycephalic, with an index of 85!
Our traditional history tells that we, the Celtic-speaking races of Britain, are not of one common ancestry, but are the descendants of two distinct series of immigrants, a British and a Gaelic. Whatever may have been the origin of the former, we know that the latter are not homogenous, but are the mixed descendants of the several Fomorian, Nemedian, Firbolg, Tuatha de Danaan, and Milesian immigrations, with which has been combined in later times a strong admixture of Scandinavian blood. It is now scarcely possible to ascertain to which of these component strains in our ancestry we owe the Celtic tongue which overmastered and supplanted the languages of the other tribes, but it is strictly in accordance with what we know of the history of mankind, that this change should have taken place. We have instances in modern times of the adoption by conquered tribes of the language of a dominant invading people. For example, Mr Hale has lately told us that the speech of the Hupas has superseded the languages of those Californian Indians whom they have subdued. In like manner, nearer home, the English language is slowly but surely supplanting the Celtic tongues themselves.
We may here parenthetically note that what has been observed in the case of language has also taken place in reference to ritual and custom. Observances which have a history and a meaning for one race have, in not a few instances, been adopted by or imposed upon other races to whom they have no such significance, and who in incorporating them give to them a new local color. These pseudomorphs of the earlier cultures are among the most perplexing of the problems which the student of comparative religion or folk lore has to resolve.
But we want more than a perfect nomenclature to bring anthropology into range with the true sciences. We need a broader basis of ascertained fact for inductive reasoning in almost all parts of our subject; we want men trained in exact method who will work patiently at the accumulation, verification, and sorting of facts, and who will not prematurely rush into theory. We have had enough of the untrained writer of papers, the jerry-builder of unfounded hypotheses whose ruins cumber our field of work.
The present position of our subject is critical and peculiar: while on the one hand the facilities for anthropological research are daily growing greater, yet in some directions the material is diminishing in quantity and accessibility. We are accumulating in our museums treasures both of the structure and the works of man, classified according to his distribution in time and space; but at the same time some of the most interesting tribes have vanished, and others are rapidly disappearing or becoming fused with their neighbors. As these pass out of existence we, with them, have lost their thoughts, their tongues, and their traditions; for even when they survive, blended with other races, that which was a religion has become a fragmentary superstition, then a nursery tale or a child's game, and is destined finally to be buried in oblivion. The unifying influences of commerce, aided by steam and electricity, are effectually effacing the landmarks between people and people, so that if we are to preserve in a form fit for future use the shreds which remain of the myths, folk lore, and linguistic usages of many of the tribes of humanity, we must be up and doing without delay. It is on this account that systematic research such as that which Mr. Risley has advocated with regard to the different races of India is of such pressing and urgent importance. It is for this reason, likewise, that we hail with pleasure the gathering of folk lore while yet it survives, and welcome such societies for the purpose as the Folk-lore Congress recently inaugurated.
I have said that in the department of physical anthropology our facilities for research are increasing. The newly founded anthropometric laboratories are beginning to bring forth results in the form of carefully compiled statistical tables, embodying the fruits of accurate observations, which are useful as far as they go. Were these extended in their scope the same machinery might easily gather particulars as to the physical characters of the inhabitants of different districts, which, would enable the anthropologist to complete in a systematic manner the work which Dr. Beddoe had so well begun. I would commend this work to the consideration of the provincial university colleges, especially those in outlying districts.
Of all the parts of the human frame, the skull is that upon which anthropologists have in the past expended the most of their time and thought. We have now, in Great Britain alone, at least four collections of skulls, each of which includes more than a thousand specimens, and in the other great national and university museums of Europe there are large collections available for study and comparison.
Despite all the labor that has been bestowed on the subject, craniometric literature is at present as unsatisfactory as it is dull. Hitherto observations have been concentrated on cranial measurements as methods for the discrimination of the skulls of different races. Scores of lines, arcs, chords, and indexes have been devised for this purpose, and the diagnosis of skulls has been attempted by a process as mechanical as that whereby we identify certain issues of postage-stamps by counting the nicks in the margin. But there is underlying all these no unifying hypothesis; so that when we in our sesquipedalian jargon describe an Australian skull as microcephalic, phænozygous, tapeino-dolichocephalic, prognathic, platyrhine, hypselopalatine, leptostaphyline, dolichuranic, chamæprosopic, and microseme, we are no nearer to the formulation of any philosophic concept of the general principles which have led to the assumption of these characters by the cranium in question, and we are forced to echo the apostrophe of Von Torök, "Vanity, thy name is Craniology."
It was perhaps needful in the early days of the subject that it should pass through the merely descriptive stage; but the time has come when we should seek for something better, when we should regard the skull not as a whole complete in itself, nor as a crystalline geometrical solid, nor as an invariable structure, but as a marvelously plastic part of the human frame, whose form depends on the co-operation of influences, the respective shares of which in molding the head are capable of qualitative if not of quantitative analysis. Could measurements be devised which would indicate the nature and amounts of these several influences, then, indeed, would craniometry pass from its present empirical condition, and become a genuine scientific method. We are yet far from the prospect of such an ideal system, and all practical men will realize the immense, but not insuperable, difficulties in the way of its formulation.
In illustration of the profound complexity of the problem which the craniologist has to face, I would ask your indulgence while I set out a few details to show the several factors whose influence should be numerically indicated by such a mode of measurement.
The parts composing the skull may be resolved into four sets: there is, first, the brain-case; secondly, the parts which subserve mastication and the preparation of the food for digestion; thirdly, the cavities containing the organs of the senses of hearing, sight, and smell; and, fourthly, those connected with the production of articulate speech. If our measurements are to mean anything, they should give us a series of definite numbers indicating the forms, modifications, and relative size of these parts, and their settings with regard to each other and to the rest of the body.
To take the last point first, it needs but a small consideration to show that the parts of the skull are arranged above and below a certain horizontal plane, which is definite (although not easily ascertained) in every skull, human or animal. This is the plane of vision. The familiar lines of Ovid—
"Pronaque cum spectent animalia cetera terram,
Os hornini sublime dedit; cœlumque tueri
are anatomically untrue, for the normal quadruped and man alike, in their most natural position, have their axis of vision directed to the horizon. Systems of measurement based upon any plane other than this are essentially artificial. There are at the outset difficulties in marking the plane accurately on the skull, and it is to be deplored that the anthropologists of different nations should have allowed themselves to be affected by extraneous influences, which have hindered their unanimous agreement upon some one definite horizontal plane in craniometry.
The Frankfort plane, drawn through the upper margins of the auditory foramina and the lowest points of the orbital borders, has the advantage of being easily traced, and differs so little from the plane of vision that we may without substantial error adopt it.
The largest part of the skull is that which is at once the receptacle and the protector of the brain, a part which, when unmodified by external pressure, premature synostosis, or other adventitious conditions, owes its form to that of the cerebral hemispheres which it contains. Speaking in this city of George and Andrew Combe, I need not do more than indicate in this matter that observation and experiment have established on a firm basis certain fundamental points regarding the growth of the brain. The study of its development shows that the convolutioning of the cerebral hemisphere is primarily due to the connection, and different rate of growth, of the superficial layer of cells with the underlying layers of white nerve fibers; and that so far from the shape being seriously modified by the constraining influence of the surrounding embryonic skull, the form of the soft membranous brain-case is primarily molded upon the brain within it, whose shape it may however be, to some extent, a secondary agent in modifying in later growth. We have also learned that, although in another sense from that of the crude phrenology of Aristotle, Porta, or Gall, the cerebrum is not a single organ acting as a functional unit, but consists of parts, each of which has its specific province; that the increase in the number of cells in any area is correlated with an increase in the size and complexity of pattern of the convolutions of that area; and that this in turn influences the shape of the inclosing shell of membrane and subsequently of bone.
The anatomist and the physiologist have worked hand in hand in the delimitation of these several functional areas, and pathology and surgery have confirmed what experimental physiology has taught. The topography of each part of the cerebrum, so important to the operating surgeon, should be pressed into the service of the anthropologist, whose measurements of the brain-case should have definite relation to these several areas. In the discussion which is to take place on this subject, I hope that some such relationships will be taken account of. This is not the place to work out in detail how this may be done; I only desire to emphasize the fundamental principle of the method.
The second factor which determines the shape of the individual skull is the size of the teeth. That these differ among different races is a matter of common observation; thus the average area of the crowns of the upper-jaw teeth in the male Australian is 1,536 sq. mm., while in the average Englishman it is only 1,286 sq. mm., less than 84 per cent of that size.
It is easy to understand how natural selection will tend to increase the size of the teeth among those races whose modes of feeding are not aided by the cook or the cutler; and how, on the other hand, the progress of civilized habits, assisted by the craft of the dentist, interferes with the action of selection in this matter among the more cultured races.
For larger teeth a more extensive alveolar arch of implantation is necessary; and as the two jaws are commensurately developed, the lower jaw of the macrodontal races exceeds that of the meso- or microdontal races in weight. Thus that of a male Australian exceeds that of the average Englishman in the proportion of 100:91.
To work this heavier jaw more powerful muscles are needed. In the average well-developed Englishman with perfect teeth the weight of the fleshy portion of the great jaw-muscles, masseters and temporals, is 60 grammes, while the weight of those as ascertained in two Australians was 74 grammes.
Correlated with this greater musculature a sharper definition of the areas for the attachments of the jaw-muscles is required. The muscular fascicles are approximately of uniform size in both microdonts and macrodonts, as the range of motion of the jaw differs little in different races; but when the skull is smaller on account of the smaller size of the brain which it contains, the temporal crest ascends higher on the side-wall. In the average Englishman the temporal crests at their points of greatest approximation anteriorly across the brows are 112 mm. apart, but in the Australian they are only separated by 103 mm.; the interstephanic distances in these two are respectively 132 and 114 mm.
The more powerful stroke of the mandibular teeth upon the anvil of the upper-jaw teeth in macrodonts renders necessary a proportionally stronger construction of the bases of support for the upper alveolar arch. In any skull this arch requires to be solidly connected to the wall of the brain-case to which the shock of the impact is ultimately transmitted, and in order to protect from pressure the delicate intervening organs of sight and smell, the connection is accomplished by the reversed arches of the infraorbital margins with their piers, malar and maxillary, founded on the frontal angular processes. These foundations are tied together by the strong supraorbital ridge, so that the whole orbital edge is a ring, made up of the hardest and toughest bone in the skeleton.
A twofold modification of this arrangement is required in the macrodont skull. The bony circumorbital ring becomes stronger, especially along its lateral piers, and also as the alveolar arch is longer, and consequently projects farther forward, its basis of support must be extended to meet and bear the malar and maxillary piers. But macrodonts are often microcephalic, and therefore the frontal region of the skull must be adjusted to form a foundation for this arch. In the average English male skull, held with its visual axes horizontal, a perpendicular dropped from the anterior surface of the fronto-nasal suture will cut the plane of the alveolar arch between the premolar teeth or through the first premolar. In an Australian skull the perpendicular cuts the horizontal plane at the anterior border of the first molar teeth.
It is obvious, therefore, that to insure firmness the piers of the arches must be obliquely set, hence the jaw is prognathous; but it is also needful that the supraorbital arcade should be advanced to meet and bear these piers, as the mandibular stroke is always vertical.
But the inner layer of the skull is molded on the small frontal lobes of the brain, so this forward extension must affect only the much thicker and tougher outer table of the skull, which, at the period of the second dentition, here separates from the inner table, the interval becoming lined by an extension of the mucosa of the anterior ethmoidal cell. In this way an air-space, the frontal sinus, is formed, whose development is thus directly correlated to the two factors of brain development and size of the teeth. If the frontal lobes are narrow in a macrodont skull, then the foundations of the outer or malar piers of the orbital arch must be extended outward as well as forward, the external angular process becoming a prominent abutment at the end of a strong, low-browed supraorbital arch, whose overhanging edge gives to the orbital aperture a diminished vertical height.
The crania of the two most macrodont races of mankind, Australian and African, differ in the relation of the jaw to the frontal bone. In the microcephalic Australian the maxillæ are founded upon the under side of the shelf-like projection of the outer table of the frontal, which juts out as a buttress to bear it. On the other hand, the nasal processes of the mesocephalic negro ascend with greater obliquity to abut on the frontal, and have, by their convergence, crushed the nasal bones together and caused their coalescence and diminution.
The crania of the two most microcephalic races present distinctive features of contrast along the same lines. The Bushman's skull is usually orthognathous, with a straight forehead and a shallow fronto-nasal recess; while the Australian skull is prognathous, with heavy overhanging brows. These conditions are correlated to the mesodontism of the Bushman and the macrodontism of the Australian respectively.
In the course of the examination of the relations of brain development to skull growth some interesting collateral points are elicited. The frontal bone grows from lateral symmetrical centers, which medially coalesce, union taking place usually between the second and sixth years of age. It has been noticed by anthropologists that metopism, as the anomalous non-union of the halves of this bone has been termed, is rare among microcephalic races, occurring only in about one per cent among Australian skulls. Increased growth of the frontal lobes as the physical accompaniment of increased intellectual activity interposes an obstacle to the easy closure of this median suture, and so in such races as the ancient Egyptian, with a broader forehead, metopism becomes commoner, rising to seven per cent. In modern civilized races the percentage ranges from five to ten. In following out the details of this enumeration I have spoken as if the microdontal condition had been the primary one, whereas all the available evidence leads to show that the contrary was the case. The characters of all the early crania, Neanderthal, Engis, and Cromagnon, are those of macrodonts. The progress has been from the macrodont to the microdont, as it probably was from the microcephalic to the macrocephalic.
The effects of the variations in size of the teeth are numerous and far-reaching. The fluctuation in the weight of the jaw depending on these variations has an important influence on the center of gravity of the head, and affects the set of the skull on the vertebral column. This leads to a consequent change in the axes of the occipital condyles, and it is one of the factors which determine the size of the neck-muscles, and therefore the degree of prominence of the nuchal crests and mastoid process.
As the teeth and alveolar arches constitute a part of the apparatus for articulate speech, so these varieties in dental development are not without considerable influence on the nature of the sound produced. The necessarily larger alveolar arch of the macrodont is hypseloid or elliptical, more especially when it has to be supported on a narrow frontal region, and this is associated with a more extensive and flatter palatine surface. This, in turn, alters the shape of the mouth cavity, and is associated with a wide flat tongue, whose shape participates in the change of form of the cavity of which it is the floor. The musculature of the tongue varies with its shape, and its motions, upon which articular speech depends, become correspondingly modified. For example, the production of the sharp sibilant S requires the approximation of the raised flexible edge of the tongue to the inner margins of the teeth behind the canines, and to the palatine margin close behind the roots of the canine and lateral incisor teeth. This closes the vocal tube laterally, and leaves a small lacuna about 5 mm. wide anteriorly, through which the vibrating current of air is forced. A narrow strip of the palate behind the medial halves of the median incisors bounds this lacuna above, and the slightly concave raised tongue-tip limits it below.
With the macrodont alveolar arch, and the correspondingly modified tongue, sibilation is a difficult feat to accomplish, and hence the sibilant sounds are practically unknown in all the Australian dialects.
It is worthy of note that the five sets of muscular fibers, whose function it is to close laterally the flask-like air-space between the tongue and the palate, are much less distinct and smaller in the tongues of the Australians which I have examined than in the tongues of ordinary Europeans.
There is a wide field open to the anatomical anthropologist in this investigation of the physical basis of dialect. It is one which requires minute and careful work, but it will repay any student who can obtain the material, and who takes time and opportunity to follow it out. The anatomical side of phonology is yet an imperfectly known subject, if one may judge by the crudeness of the descriptions of the mechanism of the several sounds to be found even in the most recent text-books. As a preliminary step in this direction we are in urgent need of an appropriate nomenclature and an accurate description of the muscular fibers of the tongue. The importance of such a work can be estimated when we remember that there is not one of the 260 possible consonantal sounds known to the phonologist which is not capable of expression in terms of lingual, labial, and palatine musculature.
The acquisition of articulate speech became possible to man only when his alveolar arch and palatine area became shortened and widened, and when his tongue, by its accommodation to the modified mouth, became shorter and more horizontally flattened, and the higher refinements of pronunciation depend for their production upon more extensive modifications in the same directions.
I can only allude now very briefly to the effects of the third set of factors, the sizes of the sense organs, on the conformation of the skull. We have already noted that the shape and the size of the orbital opening depend on the jaw as much as on the eye. A careful set of measurements has convinced me that the relative or absolute capacity of the orbital cavity is of very little significance as a characteristic of race. The microseme Australian orbit and the megaseme Kanaka are practically of the same capacity, and the eyeballs of the two Australians that I have had the opportunity of examining are a little larger than those of the average of mesoseme Englishmen.
The nasal fossæ are more variable in size than the orbits, but the superficial area of their lining and their capacity are harder to measure, and bear no constant proportion to the size of their apertures, because it is impossible without destroying the skull to shut off the large air sinuses from the nasal fossæ proper for purposes of measurement. Thus the most leptorhine of races, the Eskimo, with an average nasal index of 437, has a nasal capacity of 55 c. c., equal to that of the platyrhine Australian, whose average is 54·5, and both exceed the capacity of the leptorhine English, which average about 50 c. c. There is an intimate and easily proved connection between dental size and the extent of the nasal floor and of the pyriform aperture.
These are but a few of the points which a scientific craniometry should take into consideration. There are many others to which I can not now refer, but which will naturally occur to the thoughtful anatomist.
In this rapid review of the physical side of our subject the study of these race-characters naturally suggests the vexed question as to the hereditary transmission of acquired peculiarities. This is too large a controversy for us now to engage in, but in the special instances before us there are grounds for the presumption that these characters of microdontism and megacephaly have been acquired at some stage in the ancestral history of humanity, and that they are respectively correlated with diminution of use in the one case and increase of activity in the other. It is a matter of observation that these qualities have become hereditary, and the point at issue is not the fact, but the mechanism of the transmission. We know that use or disuse affects the development of structure in the individual, and it is hard to believe that the persistent disuse of a part through successive generations does not exercise a cumulative influence on its ultimate condition.
There is a statement in reference to one of these characters which has gained an entrance into the text-books, to the effect that the human alveolar arch is shortening, and that the last molar tooth is being crowded out of existence. I have examined 400 crania of men of the long- and round-barrow races, Romano-British and early Saxon, and have not found among all these a single instance of absence of the third molar or of overcrowded teeth. On the other hand, out of 200 ancient Egyptian skulls, nine per cent showed displacement or disease, and 11⁄2 per cent show the want of one molar tooth. Out of 200 modern English skulls there was no third molar tooth in one per cent. So far this seems to confirm the current opinion.
Yet the whole history of the organism bears testimony to the marvelous persistence of parts in spite of contumely and disuse. Take, for example, the present position of the little toe in man. We know not the condition of this digit in prehistoric man, and have but little information as to its state among savage tribes at the present day, but we do know that in civilized peoples, whose feet are from infancy subjected to conditions of restraint, it is an imperfect organ—
"of every function shorn
Except to act as basis for a corn."
In one per cent of adults the second and third joints have anchylosed, in three per cent the joint between them is rudimentary, with scarcely a trace of a cavity, in twenty per cent of feet the organ has lost one or more of its normal complement of muscles. But though shorn of some of its elements, and with others as mere shreds, the toe persists, and he would be a bold prophet who would venture to forecast how many generations of booted ancestry would suffice to eliminate it from the organization of the normal man.
Nevertheless, although it is difficult to demonstrate, in the present imperfect state of knowledge, the method whereby race-characters have originated, I think that the most of our anthropologists at least covertly adopt the philosophy of the ancient proverb, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge."
But there are other branches of anthropology of far greater interest than these simple problems upon which we have tarried so long. The study of man's intellectual nature is equally a part of our subject, and the outcomes of that nature are to be traced in the tripartite record of human progress which we call the history of culture. It is ours to trace the progress of man's inventions and their fruits in language and the arts, the direct products of the human mind. It is also ours to follow the history of man's discovery of those secrets of Nature to the unfolding of which we give the name of science. The task is also ours to inquire into that largest and most important of all sections of the history of culture which deals with the relation of human life to the unseen world, and to disentangle out of the complex network of religion, mythology, and ritual those elements which are real truths, either discovered by the exercise of man's reason, or learned by him in ways whereof science takes no account, from those adventitious and invented products of human fear and fancy which obscure the view of the central realities. In this country it matters less that our time forbids us to wander in these fascinating fields wherein the anthropologist loves to linger, as the munificent benefaction of Lord Gifford has insured that there shall be an annual fourfold presentation of the subject before the students of our Scottish universities. There is no fear that interest in these questions will flag for want of diversity in the method of treatment, or of varieties in the standpoints of the successive Gifford lecturers.
From the ground of our present knowledge we can but faintly forecast the future of anthropology, when its range is extended by further research, and when it is purged of fancies, false analogies, and imperfect observations. It may be that there is in store for us a clearer view of the past history of man, of the place and time of his first appearance, of his primitive character, and of his progress. But has this knowledge, interesting as it may be for its own sake, any bearing on the future of mankind? Hitherto growth in knowledge has not been accompanied with a commensurate increase in the sum of human happiness, but this is probably due to the imperfection which characterizes even our most advanced attainments. For example, while the medical and sanitary sciences, by their progress, are diminishing the dangers which beset humanity, they have also been the means of preserving and permitting the perpetuation of the weaklings of the race, which, had natural selection exercised its unhindered sway, would have been crushed out of existence in the struggle for life.
It is, however, of the essence of true scientific knowledge, when perfected, that it enables us to predict, and if we ever rise to the possession of a true appreciation of the influences which have affected mankind in the past, we should endeavor to learn how to direct these influences in the future that they shall work for the progress of the race. With such a knowledge we shall be able to advance in that practical branch of anthropology, the science of education; and so to guide and foster the physical, intellectual, and moral growth of the individual that he will be enabled to exercise all his powers in the best possible directions. And, lastly, we shall make progress in that kindred department, sociology, the study of which does for the community what the science of education does for the individual. Is it a dream that the future has in store for us such an anthropological Utopia?—Reprinted from Nature.
- Vice-presidential address before the Section of Anthropology of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
- Pertaining to lines of descent.
- While other animals look down upon the earth, he has given an upward face to man; and has ordered him to look at the sky and to raise his eyes to the stars.
- These and the succeeding averages are from my own measurements, taken from never less than ten individual cases.