The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Ethnography

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Edition of 1920. See also Ethnography on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

ETHNOGRAPHY, a branch of ethnology, the vast science which treats of mankind as a whole, their origin and their development in language, art, religion and political ideas, from barbarism into civilization. The German scientists class ethnology as a science standing midway between natural history and philosophy. As natural history, in the ordinary sense of the term, is a classification and description of the lower animals, ethnology may fairly be considered as a classification of the various families of the human race, based on the observation of their physical characters, and geographical distribution. From the earliest records and monuments of mankind we find traces of various types of humanity. The statues and paintings of ancient Egypt represent several racial types including the negro, the Berber and the Asiatic. In the first book of Moses, mankind are divided according to their descent from one of the three sons of Noah, Shem's progeny occupying Western Asia, while to the posterity of Ham and Japhet fell North Africa and southern Europe, respectively. Some recognition of the superficial physical differences observable in variously distributed races may also be found in Greek and Roman writers. In the Middle Ages little progress was made in ethnography. The discovery of America, with its revelation of new human types, seems to have given the first genuine stimulus to this study, and the word ethnography was first used in a book published at Nuremberg in 1791, and entitled ‘An Ethnographical Picture Gallery.’ In his great work, ‘Systerna Naturæ,’ Linnaeus classes mankind (Homo sapiens) together with the apes under the order of Primates, and divided them into four groups, as American, European, Asiatic and African. Buffon in his 'Variétés dans l'espèce humaine' distinguishes the races according to their geographical distribution, though he makes some reference to physical variations. Blumenbach was the first to classify the races of men according to the shape of their skull. The Caucasian, whose skull was symmetrical, he set as the normal type, midway between the Mongolian with the square skull, and the negro with his prognathous skull, while the American was ranged between the Mongolian and the Caucasian, and the Malayan between the Caucasian and the negro. In each of these types he distinguished and recognized as important the character of the hair, the setting of the eyes, and the form of the mouth.

The modern science of ethnography dates from the year 1829 when Milne-Edwards wrote to Thierry, with the result that the Société Ethnologique was founded. The founding of an ethnographic museum was suggested by Jomard in 1843, and built some years later in Paris. Since that time the study has been thoroughly systematized all over the world. While of all ethnographical classifications the most obvious is the enumeration of the white, yellow, red and black-skinned races, as together making up mankind, this is clearly insufficient, as it would be likely to confound widely different types. Many attempts at a more scientific classification have been made. Oscar Pechsel recognized seven races of men: (1) the Australian; (2) the Papuan, including the Melanesian, the Negrito, etc.; (3) the Mongolian, including the Polynesian, the Malay, the Eskimo, and the American Indian; (4) the Dravidian (southern India and Ceylon); (5) the Hottentot and Bushman; (6) the negro; (7) the Mediterranean races, or Caucasian, which include the Hamitic, Semitic, and Indo-European.

It will be seen that these divisions are based upon other considerations than those of physical character, for it is merely because of their geographical proximity that the Hamitic, which includes the inhabitants of North Africa, can be placed in one category with the Caucasian. Among the most recent systems of ethnographical classification is that of Haeckel who has divided the human family into races in accordance with the variations of a single physical character, that namely of the hair. According to his authority there are two main species and four sub-species of hair found among mankind, who may be broadly separated into the woolly-haired (Ulotriches), and the straight-haired (Lissotriches). The woolly-haired consist (1) of the crested-haired (Lophocomi) subdivision, represented by the Hottentot, and the Papuan; and (2) of the fleecy-haired (Eriocomi) which includes the negro and the Kaffir. The straight-haired are subdivided into the streaming-haired, and the curly-haired. To the former belong the Australian, the Arctic dwellers, the American Indian, Malay, and Mongolian; to the latter the Dravidian, the Mediterranean races and the Nubian. See Ethnology and consult works subjoined thereto.