1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Anthropology
ANTHROPOLOGY (Gr. ἄνθρωπος man, and λόγος, theory or science), the science which, in its strictest sense, has as its object the study of man as a unit in the animal kingdom. It is distinguished from ethnology, which is devoted to the study of man as a racial unit, and from ethnography, which deals with the distribution of the races formed by the aggregation of such units. To anthropology, however, in its more general sense as the natural history of man, ethnology and ethnography may both be considered to belong, being related as parts to a whole.
Various other sciences, in conformity with the above definition, must be regarded as subsidiary to anthropology, which yet hold their own independent places in the field of knowledge. Thus anatomy and physiology display the structure and functions of the human body, while psychology investigates the operations of the human mind. Philology deals with the general principles of language, as well as with the relations between the languages of particular races and nations. Ethics or moral science treats of man’s duty or rules of conduct toward his fellow-men. Sociology and the science of culture are concerned with the origin and development of arts and sciences, opinions, beliefs, customs, laws and institutions generally among mankind within historic time; while beyond the historical limit the study is continued by inferences from relics of early ages and remote districts, to interpret which is the task of prehistoric archaeology and geology.
I. Man’s Place in Nature.—In 1843 Dr J. C. Prichard, who perhaps of all others merits the title of founder of modern anthropology, wrote in his Natural History of Man:—
- “The organized world presents no contrasts and resemblances more remarkable than those which we discover on comparing mankind with the inferior tribes. That creatures should exist so nearly approaching to each other in all the particulars of their physical structure, and yet differing so immeasurably in their endowments and capabilities, would be a fact hard to believe, if it were not manifest to our observation. The differences are everywhere striking: the resemblances are less obvious in the fulness of their extent, and they are never contemplated without wonder by those who, in the study of anatomy and physiology, are first made aware how near is man in his physical constitution to the brutes. In all the principles of his internal structure, in the composition and functions of his parts, man is but an animal. The lord of the earth, who contemplates the eternal order of the universe, and aspires to communion with its invisible Maker, is a being composed of the same materials, and framed on the same principles, as the creatures which he has tamed to be the servile instruments of his will, or slays for his daily food. The points of resemblance are innumerable; they extend to the most recondite arrangements of that mechanism which maintains instrumentally the physical life of the body, which
- brings forward its early development and admits, after a given period, its decay, and by means of which is prepared a succession of similar beings destined to perpetuate the race.”
The acknowledgment of man’s structural similarity with the anthropomorphous species nearest approaching him, viz.: the higher or anthropoid apes, had long before Prichard’s day been made by Linnaeus, who in his Systema Naturae (1735) grouped them together as the highest order of Mammalia, to which he gave the name of Primates. The Amoenitates Academicae (vol. vi., Leiden, 1764), published under the auspices of Linnaeus, contains a remarkable picture which illustrates a discourse by his disciple Hoppius, and is here reproduced (see Plate, fig. 1). In this picture, which shows the crudeness of the zoological notions current in the 18th century as to both men and apes, there are set in a row four figures: (a) a recognizable orang-utan, sitting and holding a staff; (b) a chimpanzee, absurdly humanized as to head, hands, and feet; (c) a hairy woman, with a tail a foot long; (d) another woman, more completely coated with hair. The great Swedish naturalist was possibly justified in treating the two latter creatures as quasi-human, for they seem to be grotesque exaggerations of such tailed and hairy human beings as really, though rarely, occur, and are apt to be exhibited as monstrosities (see Bastian and Hartmann, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, Index, “Geschwänzte Menschen”; Gould and Pile, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, 1897). To Linnaeus, however, they represented normal anthropomorpha or man-like creatures, vouched for by visitors to remote parts of the world. This opinion of the Swedish naturalist seems to have been little noticed in Great Britain till it was taken up by the learned but credulous Scottish judge, Lord Monboddo (see his Origin and Progress of Language, 1774, &c.; Antient Metaphysics, 1778). He had not heard of the tailed men till he met with them in the work of Linnaeus, with whom he entered into correspondence, with the result that he enlarged his range of mankind with races of sub-human type. One was founded on the description by the Swedish sailor Niklas Köping of the ferocious men with long tails inhabiting the Nicobar Islands. Another comprised the orang-utans of Sumatra, who were said to take men captive and set them to work as slaves. One of these apes, it was related, served as a sailor on board a Jamaica ship, and used to wait on the captain. These are stories which seem to carry their own explanation. When the Nicobar Islands were taken over by the British government two centuries later, the native warriors were still wearing their peculiar loin-cloth hanging behind in a most tail-like manner (E. H. Man, Journal Anthropological Institute, vol. xv. p. 442). As for the story of the orang-utan cabin boy, this may even be verbally true, it being borne in mind that in the Malay languages the term orang-utan, “man of the forest,” was originally used for inland forest natives and other rude men, rather than for the miyas apes to which it has come to be generally applied by Europeans. The speculations as to primitive man connected with these stories diverted the British public, headed by Dr Johnson, who said that Monboddo was “as jealous of his tail as a squirrel.” Linnaeus’s primarily zoological classification of man did not, however, suit the philosophical opinion of the time, which responded more readily to the systems represented by Buffon, and later by Cuvier, in which the human mind and soul formed an impassable wall of partition between him and other mammalia, so that the definition of man’s position in the animal world was treated as not belonging to zoology, but to metaphysics and theology. It has to be borne in mind that Linnaeus, plainly as he recognized the likeness of the higher simian and the human types, does not seem to have entertained the thought of accounting for this similarity by common descent. It satisfied his mind to consider it as belonging to the system of nature, as indeed remained the case with a greater anatomist of the following century, Richard Owen. The present drawing, which under the authority of Linnaeus shows an anthropomorphic series from which the normal type of man, the Homo sapiens, is conspicuously absent, brings zoological similarity into view without suggesting kinship to account for it. There are few ideas more ingrained in ancient and low civilization than that of relationship by descent between the lower animals and man. Savage and barbaric religions recognize it, and the mythology of the world has hardly a more universal theme. But in educated Europe such ideas had long been superseded by the influence of theology and philosophy, with which they seemed too incompatible. In the 19th century, however, Lamarck’s theory of the development of new species by habit and circumstance led through Wallace and Darwin to the doctrines of the hereditary transmission of acquired characters, the survival of the fittest, and natural selection. Thenceforward it was impossible to exclude a theory of descent of man from ancestral beings whom zoological similarity connects also, though by lines of descent not at all clearly defined, with ancestors of the anthropomorphic apes. In one form or another such a theory of human descent has in our time become part of an accepted framework of zoology, if not as a demonstrable truth, at any rate as a working hypothesis which has no effective rival.
The new development from Linnaeus’s zoological scheme which has thus ensued appears in Huxley’s diagram of simian and human skeletons (fig. 2, (a) gibbon; (b) orang; (c) chimpanzee; (d) gorilla; (e) man). Evidently suggested by the Linnean picture, this is brought up to the modern level of zoology, and continued on to man, forming an introduction to his zoological history hardly to be surpassed. Some of the main points it illustrates may be briefly stated here, the reader being referred for further information to Huxley’s Essays. In tracing the osteological characters of apes and man through this series, the general system of the skeletons, and the close correspondence in number and arrangement of vertebrae and ribs, as well as in the teeth, go far towards justifying the opinion of hereditary connexion. At the same time, the comparison brings into view differences in human structure adapted to man’s pre-eminent mode of life, though hardly to be accounted its chief causes. It may be seen how the arrangement of limbs suited for going on all-fours belongs rather to the apes than to man, and walking on the soles of the feet rather to man than the apes. The two modes of progression overlap in human life, but the child’s tendency when learning is to rest on the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands, unlike the apes, which support themselves on the sides of the feet and the bent knuckles of the hands. With regard to climbing, the long stretch of arm and the grasp with both hands and feet contribute to the arboreal life of the apes, contrasting with what seem the mere remains of the climbing habit to be found even among forest savages. On the whole, man’s locomotive limbs are not so much specialized to particular purposes, as generalized into adaptation to many ends. As to the mechanical conditions of the human body, the upright posture has always been recognized as the chief. To it contributes the balance of the skull on the cervical vertebrae, while the human form of the pelvis provides the necessary support to the intestines in the standing attitude. The marked curvature of the vertebral column, by breaking the shock to the neck and head in running and leaping, likewise favours the erect position. The lowest coccygeal vertebrae of man remain as a rudimentary tail. While it is evident that high importance must be attached to the adaptation of the human body to the life of diversified intelligence and occupation he has to lead, this must not be treated as though it were the principal element of the superiority of man, whose comparison with all lower genera of mammals must be mainly directed to the intellectual organ, the brain. Comparison of the brains of vertebrate animals (see Brain) brings into view the immense difference between the small, smooth brain of a fish or bird and the large and convoluted organ in man. In man, both size and complexity contribute to the increased area of the cortex or outer layer of the brain, which has been fully ascertained to be the seat of the mysterious processes by which sensation furnishes the groundwork of thought. Schäfer (Textbook of Physiology, vol. ii. p. 697) thus defines it: “The cerebral cortex is the seat of the intellectual functions, of intelligent sensation or consciousness, of ideation, of volition, and of memory.”
The relations between man and ape are most readily stated in comparison with the gorilla, as on the whole the most anthropomorphous ape. In the general proportions of the body and limbs there is a marked difference between the gorilla and man. The gorilla’s brain-case is smaller, its trunk larger, its lower limbs shorter, its upper limbs longer in proportion than those of man. The differences between a gorilla’s skull and a man’s are truly immense. In the gorilla, the face, formed largely by the massive jaw-bones, predominates over the brain-case or cranium; in the man these proportions are reversed. In man the occipital foramen, through which passes the spinal cord, is placed just behind the centre of the base of the skull, which is thus evenly balanced in the erect posture, whereas the gorilla, which goes habitually on all fours, and whose skull is inclined forward, in accordance with this posture has the foramen farther back. In man the surface of the skull is comparatively smooth, and the brow-ridges project but little, while in the gorilla these ridges overhang the cavernous orbits like penthouse roofs. The absolute capacity of the cranium of the gorilla is far less than that of man; the smallest adult human cranium hardly measuring less than 63 cub. in., while the largest gorilla cranium measured had a content of only 34½ cub. in. The largest proportional size of the facial bones, and the great projection of the jaws, confer on the gorilla’s skull its small facial angle and brutal character, while its teeth differ from man’s in relative size and number of fangs. Comparing the lengths of the extremities, it is seen that the gorilla’s arm is of enormous length, in fact about one-sixth longer than the spine, whereas a man’s arm is one-fifth shorter than the spine; both hand and foot are proportionally much longer in the gorilla than in man; the leg does not so much differ. The vertebral column of the gorilla differs from that of man in its curvature and other characters, as also does the conformation of its narrow pelvis. The hand of the gorilla corresponds essentially as to bones and muscles with that of man, but is clumsier and heavier; its thumb is “opposable” like a human thumb, that is, it can easily meet with its extremity the extremities of the other fingers, thus possessing a character which does much to make the human hand so admirable an instrument; but the gorilla’s thumb is proportionately shorter than man’s. The foot of the higher apes, though often spoken of as a hand, is anatomically not such, but a prehensile foot. It has been argued by Sir Richard Owen and others that the position of the great toe converts the foot of the higher apes into a hand, an extremely important distinction from man; but against this Professor T. H. Huxley maintained that it has the characteristic structure of a foot with a very movable great toe. The external unlikeness of the apes to man depends much on their hairiness, but this and some other characteristics have no great zoological value. No doubt the difference between man and the apes depends, of all things, on the relative size and organization of the brain. While similar as to their general arrangement to the human brain, those of the higher apes, such as the chimpanzee, are much less complex in their convolutions, as well as much less in both absolute and relative weight—the weight of a gorilla’s brain hardly exceeding 20 oz., and a man’s brain hardly weighing less thin 32 oz., although the gorilla is considerably the larger animal of the two.
These anatomical distinctions are undoubtedly of great moment, and it is an interesting question whether they suffice to place man in a zoological order by himself. It is plain that some eminent zoologists, regarding man as absolutely differing as to mind and spirit from any other animal, have had their discrimination of mere bodily differences unconsciously sharpened, and have been led to give differences, such as in the brain or even the foot of the apes and man, somewhat more importance than if they had merely distinguished two species of apes. Many naturalists hold the opinion that the anatomical differences which separate the gorilla or chimpanzee from man are in some respects less than those which separate these man-like apes from apes lower in the scale. Yet all authorities class both the higher and lower apes in the same order. This is Huxley’s argument, some prominent points of which are the following: As regards the proportion of limbs, the hylobates or gibbon is as much longer in the arms than the gorilla as the gorilla is than the man, while on the other hand, it is as much longer in the legs than the man as the man is than the gorilla. As to the vertebral column and pelvis, the lower apes differ from the gorilla as much as, or more than, it differs from man. As to the capacity of the cranium, men differ from one another so extremely that the largest known human skull holds nearly twice the measure of the smallest, a larger proportion than that in which man surpasses the gorilla; while, with proper allowance for difference of size of the various species, it appears that some of the lower apes fall nearly as much below the higher apes. The projection of the muzzle, which gives the character of brutality to the gorilla as distinguished from the man, is yet further exaggerated in the lemurs, as is also the backward position of the occipital foramen. In characters of such importance as the structure of the hand and foot, the lower apes diverge extremely from the gorilla; thus the thumb ceases to be opposable in the American monkeys, and in the marmosets is directed forwards, and armed with a curved claw like the other digits, the great toe in these latter being insignificant in proportion. The same argument can be extended to other points of anatomical structure, and, what is of more consequence, it appears true of the brain. A series of the apes, arranged from lower to higher orders, shows gradations from a brain little higher that that of a rat, to a brain like a small and imperfect imitation of a man’s; and the greatest structural break in the series lies not between man and the man-like apes, but between the apes and monkeys on one side, and the lemurs on the other. On these grounds Huxley, restoring in principle the Linnean classification, desired to include man in the order of Primates. This order he divided into seven families: first, the Anthropini, consisting of man only; second, the Catarhini or Old World apes; third, the Platyrhini, all New World apes, except the marmosets; fourth, the Arctopithecini, or marmosets; fifth, the Lemurini, or lemurs; sixth and seventh, the Cheiromyini and Galeopithecini.
It is in assigning to man his place in nature on psychological grounds that the greater difficulty arises. Huxley acknowledged an immeasurable and practically infinite divergence, ending in the present enormous psychological gulf between ape and man. It is difficult to account for this intellectual chasm as due to some minor structural difference. The opinion is deeply rooted in modern as in ancient thought, that only a distinctively human element of the highest import can account for the severance between man and the highest animal below him. Differences in the mechanical organs, such as the perfection of the human hand as an instrument, or the adaptability of the human voice to the expression of human thought, are indeed of great value. But they have not of themselves such value, that to endow an ape with the hand and vocal organs of a man would be likely to raise it through any large part of the interval that now separates it from humanity. Much more is to be said for the view that man’s larger and more highly organized brain accounts for those mental powers in which he so absolutely surpasses the brutes.
The distinction does not seem to lie principally in the range and delicacy of direct sensation, as may be judged from such well-known facts as man’s inferiority to the eagle in sight, or to the dog in scent. At the same time, it seems that the human sensory organs may have in various respects acuteness beyond those of other creatures. But, beyond a doubt, man possesses, and in some way possesses by virtue of his superior brain, a power of co-ordinating the impressions of his senses, which enables him to understand the world he lives in, and by understanding to use, resist, and even in a measure rule it. No human art shows the nature of this human attribute more clearly than does language. Man shares with the mammalia and birds the direct expression of the feelings by emotional tones and interjectional cries; the parrot’s power of articulate utterance almost equals his own; and, by association of ideas in some measure, some of the lower animals have even learnt to recognize words he utters. But, to use words in themselves unmeaning, as symbols by which to conduct and convey the complex intellectual processes in which mental conceptions are suggested, compared, combined, and even analysed, and new ones created—this is a faculty which is scarcely to be traced in any lower animal. The view that this, with other mental processes, is a function of the brain, is remarkably corroborated by modern investigation of the disease of aphasia, where the power of thinking remains, but the power is lost of recalling the word corresponding to the thought, and this mental defect is found to accompany a diseased state of a particular locality of the brain (see Aphasia). This may stand among the most perfect of the many evidences that, in Professor Bain’s words, “the brain is the principal, though not the sole organ of mind.” As the brains of the vertebrate animals form an ascending scale, more and more approaching man’s in their arrangement, the fact here finds its explanation, that lower animals perform mental processes corresponding in their nature to our own, though of generally less power and complexity. The full evidence of this correspondence will be found in such works as Brehm’s Thierleben; and some of the salient points are set forth by Charles Darwin, in the chapter on “Mental Powers,” in his Descent of Man. Such are the similar effects of terror on man and the lower animals, causing the muscles to tremble, the heart to palpitate, the sphincters to be relaxed, and the hair to stand on end. The phenomena of memory, as to both persons and places, is strong in animals, as is manifest by their recognition of their masters, and their returning at once to habits of which, though disused for many years, their brain has not lost the stored-up impressions. Such facts as that dogs “hunt in dreams,” make it likely that their minds are not only sensible to actual events, present and past, but can, like our minds, combine revived sensations into ideal scenes in which they are actors,—that is to say, they have the faculty of imagination. As for the reasoning powers in animals, the accounts of monkeys learning by experience to break eggs carefully, and pick off bits of shell, so as not to lose the contents, or of the way in which rats or martens after a while can no longer be caught by the same kind of trap, with innumerable similar facts, show in the plainest way that the reason of animals goes so far as to form by new experience a new hypothesis of cause and effect which will henceforth guide their actions. The employment of mechanical instruments, of which instances of monkeys using sticks and stones furnish the only rudimentary traces among the lower animals, is one of the often-quoted distinctive powers of man. With this comes the whole vast and ever-widening range of inventive and adaptive art, where the uniform hereditary instinct of the cell-forming bee and the nest-building bird is supplanted by multiform processes and constructions, often at first rude and clumsy in comparison to those of the lower instinct, but carried on by the faculty of improvement and new invention into ever higher stages. “From the moment,” writes A. R. Wallace (Natural Selection), “when the first skin was used as a covering, when the first rude spear was formed to assist in the chase, when fire was first used to cook his food, when the first seed was sown or shoot planted, a grand revolution was effected in nature, a revolution which in all the previous ages of the earth’s history had had no parallel; for a being had arisen who was no longer necessarily subject to change with the changing universe,—a being who was in some degree superior to nature, inasmuch as he knew how to control and regulate her action, and could keep himself in harmony with her, not by a change in body, but by an advance of mind.”
As to the lower instincts tending directly to self-preservation, it is acknowledged on all hands that man has them in a less developed state than other animals; in fact, the natural defencelessness of the human being, and the long-continued care and teaching of the young by the elders, are among the commonest themes of moral discourse. Parental tenderness and care for the young are strongly marked among the lower animals, though so inferior in scope and duration to the human qualities; and the same may be said of the mutual forbearance and defence which bind together in a rudimentary social bond the families and herds of animals. Philosophy seeking knowledge for its own sake; morality, manifested in the sense of truth, right, and virtue; and religion, the belief in and communion with superhuman powers ruling and pervading the universe, are human characters, of which it is instructive to trace, if possible, the earliest symptoms in the lower animals, but which can there show at most only faint and rudimentary signs of their wondrous development in mankind. That the tracing of physical and even intellectual continuity between the lower animals and our own race, does not necessarily lead the anthropologist to lower the rank of man in the scale of nature, may be shown by citing A. R. Wallace. Man, he considers, is to be placed “apart, as not only the head and culminating point of the grand series of organic nature, but as in some degree a new and distinct order of being.”
To regard the intellectual functions of the brain and nervous system as alone to be considered in the psychological comparison of man with the lower animals, is a view satisfactory to those thinkers who hold materialistic views. According to this school, man is a machine, no doubt the most complex and wonderfully adapted of all known machines, but still neither more nor less than an instrument whose energy is provided by force from without, and which, when set in action, performs the various operations for which its structure fits it, namely, to live, move, feel, and think. This view, however, always has been strongly opposed by those who accept on theological grounds a spiritualistic doctrine, or what is, perhaps, more usual, a theory which combines spiritualism and materialism in the doctrine of a composite nature in man, animal as to the body and in some measure as to the mind, spiritual as to the soul. It may be useful, as an illustration of one opinion on this subject, to continue here the citation of Dr Prichard’s comparison between man and the lower animals:—
- “If it be inquired in what the still more remarkable difference consists, it is by no means easy to reply. By some it will be said that man, while similar in the organization of his body to the lower tribes, is distinguished from them by the possession of an immaterial soul, a principle capable of conscious feeling, of intellect and thought. To many persons it will appear paradoxical to ascribe the endowment of a soul to the inferior tribes in the creation, yet it is difficult to discover a valid argument that limits the possession of an immaterial principle to man. The phenomena of feeling, of desire and aversion, of love and hatred, of fear and revenge, and the perception of external relations manifested in the life of brutes, imply, not only through the analogy which they display to the human faculties, but likewise from all that we can learn or conjecture of their particular nature, the superadded existence of a principle distinct from the mere mechanism of material bodies. That such a principle must exist in all beings capable of sensation, or of anything analogous to human passions and feelings, will hardly be denied by those who perceive the force of arguments which metaphysically demonstrate the immaterial nature of the mind. There may be no rational grounds for the ancient dogma that the souls of the lower animals were imperishable, like the soul of man: this is, however, a problem which we are not called upon to discuss; and we may venture to conjecture that there may be immaterial essences of divers kinds, and endowed with various attributes and capabilities. But the real nature of these unseen principles eludes our research: they are only known to us by their external manifestations. These manifestations are the various powers and capabilities, or rather the habitudes of action, which characterize the different orders of being, diversified according to their several destinations.”
Dr Prichard here puts forward distinctly the time-honoured doctrine which refers the mental faculties to the operation of the soul. The view maintained by a distinguished comparative anatomist, Professor St George Mivart, in his Genesis of Species, ch. xii., may fairly follow. “Man, according to the old scholastic definition, is ‘a rational animal’ (animal rationale), and his animality is distinct in nature from his rationality, though inseparably joined, during life, in one common personality. Man’s animal body must have had a different source from that of the spiritual soul which informs it, owing to the distinctness of the two orders to which those two existences severally belong.” The two extracts just given, however, significant in themselves, fail to render an account of the view of the human constitution which would probably, among the theological and scholastic leaders of public opinion, count the largest weight of adherence. According to this view, not only life but thought are functions of the animal system, in which man excels all other animals as to height of organization: but beyond this, man embodies an immaterial and immortal spiritual principle which no lower creature possesses, and which makes the resemblance of the apes to him but a mocking simulance. To pronounce any absolute decision on these conflicting doctrines is foreign to our present purpose, which is to show that all of them count among their adherents men of high rank in science.
II. Origin of Man.—Opinion as to the genesis of man is divided between the theories of creation and evolution. In both schools, the ancient doctrine of the contemporaneous appearance on earth of all species of animals having been abandoned under the positive evidence of geology, it is admitted that the animal kingdom, past and present, includes a vast series of successive forms, whose appearances and disappearances have taken place at intervals during an immense lapse of ages. The line of inquiry has thus been directed to ascertaining what formative relation subsists among these species and genera, the last link of the argument reaching to the relation between man and the lower creatures preceding him in time. On both the theories here concerned it would be admitted, in the words of Agassiz (Principles of Zoology, pp. 205-206), that “there is a manifest progress in the succession of beings on the surface of the earth. This progress consists in an increasing similarity of the living fauna, and, among the vertebrates especially, in their increasing resemblance to man.” Agassiz continues, however, in terms characteristic of the creationist school: “But this connexion is not the consequence of a direct lineage between the faunas of different ages. There is nothing like parental descent connecting them. The fishes of the Palaeozoic age are in no respect the ancestors of the reptiles of the Secondary age, nor does man descend from the mammals which preceded him in the Tertiary age. The link by which they are connected is of a higher and immaterial nature; and their connexion is to be sought in the view of the Creator himself, whose aim in forming the earth, in allowing it to undergo the successive changes which geology has pointed out, and in creating successively all the different types of animals which have passed away, was to introduce man upon the surface of our globe. Man is the end towards which all the animal creation has tended from the first appearance of the first Palaeozoic fishes.” The evolutionist, on the contrary (see Evolution), maintains that different successive species of animals are in fact connected by parental descent, having become modified in the course of successive generations. The result of Charles Darwin’s application of this theory to man may be given in his own words (Descent of Man, part i. ch. 6):—
- “The Catarhine and Platyrhine monkeys agree in a multitude of characters, as is shown by their unquestionably belonging to one and the same order. The many characters which they possess in common can hardly have been independently acquired by so many distinct species; so that these characters must have been inherited. But an ancient form which possessed many characters common to the Catarhine and Platyrhine monkeys, and others in an intermediate condition, and some few perhaps distinct from those now present in either group, would undoubtedly have been ranked, if seen by a naturalist, as an ape or a monkey. And as man under a genealogical point of view belongs to the Catarhine or Old World stock, we must conclude, however much the conclusion may revolt our pride, that our early progenitors would have been properly thus designated. But we must not fall into the error of supposing that the early progenitor of the whole Simian stock, including man, was identical with, or even closely resembled, any existing ape or monkey.”
The problem of the origin of man cannot be properly discussed apart from the full problem of the origin of species. The homologies between man and other animals which both schools try to account for; the explanation of the intervals, with apparent want of intermediate forms, which seem to the creationists so absolute a separation between species; the evidence of useless “rudimentary organs,” such as in man the external shell of the ear, and the muscle which enables some individuals to twitch their ears, which rudimentary parts the evolutionists claim to be only explicable as relics of an earlier specific condition,—these, which are the main points of the argument on the origin of man, belong to general biology. The philosophical principles which underlie the two theories stand for the most part in strong contrast, the theory of evolution tending toward the supposition of ordinary causes, such as “natural selection,” producing modifications in species, whether by gradual accumulation or more sudden leaps, while the theory of creation has recourse to acts of supernatural intervention (see the duke of Argyll, Reign of Law, ch. v.). St George Mivart (Genesis of Species) propounded a theory of a natural evolution of man as to his body, combined with a supernatural creation as to his soul; but this attempt to meet the difficulties on both sides seems to have satisfied neither.
The wide acceptance of the Darwinian theory, as applied to the descent of man, has naturally roused anticipation that geological research, which provides evidence of the animal life of incalculably greater antiquity, would furnish fossil remains of some comparatively recent being intermediate between the anthropomorphic and the anthropic types. This expectation has hardly been fulfilled, but of late years the notion of a variety of the human race, geologically ancient, differing from any known in historic times, and with characters approaching the simian, has been supported by further discoveries. To bring this to the reader’s notice, top and side views of three skulls, as placed together in the human development series in the Oxford University Museum, are represented in the plate, for the purpose of showing the great size of the orbital ridges, which the reader may contrast with his own by a touch with his fingers on his forehead. The first (fig. 3) is the famous Neanderthal skull from near Düsseldorf, described by Schaafhausen in Müller’s Archiv, 1858; Huxley in Lyell, Antiquity of Man, p. 86, and in Man’s Place in Nature. The second (fig. 4) is the skull from the cavern of Spy in Belgium (de Puydt and Lohest, Compte rendu du Congrès de Namur, 1886). The foreheads of these two skulls have an ape-like form, obvious on comparison with the simian skulls of the gorilla and other apes, and visible even in the small-scale figures in the Plate, fig. 2. Among modern tribes of mankind the forehead of the Australian aborigines makes the nearest approach to this type, as was pointed out by Huxley. This brief description will serve to show the importance of a later discovery. At Trinil, in Java, in an equatorial region where, if anywhere, a being intermediate between the higher apes and man would seem likely to be found, Dr Eugene Dubois in 1891-1892 excavated from a bed, considered by him to be of Sivalik formation (Pliocene), a thighbone which competent anatomists decide to be human, and a remarkably depressed calvaria or skull-cap (fig. 5), bearing a certain resemblance in its proportions to the corresponding part of the simian skull. These remains were referred by their discoverer to an animal intermediate between man and ape, to which he gave the name of Pithecanthropus erectus (q.v.), but the interesting discussions on the subject have shown divergence of opinion among anatomists. At any rate, classing the Trinil skull as human, it may be described as tending towards the simian type more than any other known.
III. Races of Mankind.—The classification of mankind into a number of permanent varieties or races, rests on grounds which are within limits not only obvious but definite. Whether from a popular or a scientific point of view, it would be admitted that a Negro, a Chinese, and an Australian belong to three such permanent varieties of men, all plainly distinguishable from one another and from any European. Moreover, such a division takes for granted the idea which is involved in the word race, that each of these varieties is due to special ancestry, each race thus representing an ancient breed or stock, however these breeds or stocks may have had their origin. The anthropological classification of mankind is thus zoological in its nature, like that of the varieties or species of any other animal group, and the characters on which it is based are in great measure physical, though intellectual and traditional peculiarities, such as moral habit and language, furnish important aid. Among the best-marked race-characters are the colour of the skin, eyes and hair; and the structure and arrangement of the latter. Stature is by no means a general criterion of race, and it would not, for instance, be difficult to choose groups of Englishmen, Kaffirs, and North American Indians, whose mean height should hardly differ. Yet in many cases it is a valuable means of distinction, as between the tall Patagonians and the stunted Fuegians, and even as a help in minuter problems, such as separating the Teutonic and Celtic ancestry in the population of England (see Beddoe, “Stature and Bulk of Man in the British Isles,” in Mem. Anthrop. Soc. London, vol. iii.) Proportions of the limbs, compared in length with the trunk, have been claimed as constituting peculiarities of African and American races; and other anatomical points, such as the conformation of the pelvis, have speciality. But inferences of this class have hardly attained to sufficient certainty and generality to be set down in the form of rules. The conformation of the skull is second only to the colour of the skin as a criterion for the distinction of race; and the position of the jaws is recognized as important, races being described as prognathous when the jaws project far, as in the Australian or Negro, in contradistinction to the orthognathous type, which is that of the ordinary well-shaped European skull. On this distinction in great measure depends the celebrated “facial angle,” measured by Camper as a test of low and high races; but this angle is objectionable as resulting partly from the development of the forehead and partly from the position of the jaws. The capacity of the cranium is estimated in cubic measure by filling it with sand, &c., with the general result that the civilized white man is found to have a larger brain than the barbarian or savage. Classification of races on cranial measurements has long been attempted by eminent anatomists, and in certain cases great reliance may be placed on such measurements. Thus the skulls of an Australian and a Negro would be generally distinguished by their narrowness and the projection of the jaw from that of any Englishman; but the Australian skull would usually differ perceptibly from the Negroid in its upright sides and strong orbital ridges. The relation of height to breadth may also furnish a valuable test; but it is acknowledged by all experienced craniologists, that the shape of the skull may vary so much within the same tribe, and even the same family, that it must be used with extreme caution, and if possible only in conjunction with other criteria of race. The general contour of the face, in part dependent on the form of the skull, varies much in different races, among whom it is loosely defined as oval, lozenge-shaped, pentagonal, &c. Of particular features, some of the most marked contrasts to European types are seen in the oblique Chinese eyes, the broad-set Kamchadale cheeks, the pointed Arab chin, the snub Kirghiz nose, the fleshy protuberant Negro lips, and the broad Kalmuck ear. Taken altogether, the features have a typical character which popular observation seizes with some degree of correctness, as in the recognition of the Jewish countenance in a European city.
Were the race-characters constant in degree or even in kind, the classification of races would be easy; but this is not so. Every division of mankind presents in every character wide deviations from a standard. Thus the Negro race, well marked as it may seem at the first glance, proves on closer examination to include several shades of complexion and features, in some districts varying far from the accepted Negro type; while the examination of a series of native American tribes shows that, notwithstanding their asserted uniformity of type, they differ in stature, colour, features and proportions of skull. (See Prichard, Nat. Hist. of Man; Waitz, Anthropology, part i. sec. 5.) Detailed anthropological research, indeed, more and more justifies Blumenbach’s words, that “innumerable varieties of mankind run into one another by insensible degrees.” This state of things, due partly to mixture and crossing of races, and partly to independent variation of types, makes the attempt to arrange the whole human species within exactly bounded divisions an apparently hopeless task. It does not follow, however, that the attempt to distinguish special races should be given up, for there at least exist several definable types, each of which so far prevails in a certain population as to be taken as its standard. L. A. J. Quetelet’s plan of defining such types will probably meet with general acceptance as the scientific method proper to this branch of anthropology. It consists in the determination of the standard or typical “mean man” (homme moyen) of a population, with reference to any particular quality, such as stature, weight, complexion, &c. In the case of stature, this would be done by measuring a sufficient number of men, and counting how many of them belong to each height on the scale. If it be thus ascertained, as it might be in an English district, that the 5 ft. 7 in. men form the most numerous group, while the 5 ft. 6 in. and 5 ft. 8 in. men are less in number, and the 5 ft. 5 in. and 5 ft. 9 in. still fewer, and so on until the extremely small number of extremely short or tall individuals of 5 ft. or 7 ft. is reached, it will thus be ascertained that the stature of the mean or typical man is to be taken as 5 ft. 7 in. The method is thus that of selecting as the standard the most numerous group, on both sides of which the groups decrease in number as they vary in type. Such classification may show the existence of two or more types, in a community, as, for instance, the population of a Californian settlement made up of Whites and Chinese might show two predominant groups (one of 5 ft. 8 in., the other of 5 ft. 4 in.) corresponding to these two racial types. It need hardly be said that this method of determining the mean type of a race, as being that of its really existing and most numerous class, is altogether superior to the mere calculation of an average, which may actually be represented by comparatively few individuals, and those the exceptional ones. For instance, the average stature of the mixed European and Chinese population just referred to might be 5 ft. 6 in.—a worthless and indeed misleading result. (For particulars of Quetelet’s method, see his Physique sociale (1869), and Anthropométrie (1871).)
Classifications of man have been numerous, and though, regarded as systems, most of them are unsatisfactory, yet they have been of great value in systematizing knowledge, and are all more or less based on indisputable distinctions. J. F. Blumenbach’s division, though published as long ago as 1781, has had the greatest influence. He reckons five races, viz. Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian, American, Malay. The ill-chosen name of Caucasian, invented by Blumenbach in allusion to a South Caucasian skull of specially typical proportions, and applied by him to the so-called white races, is still current; it brings into one race peoples such as the Arabs and Swedes, although these are scarcely less different than the Americans and Malays, who are set down as two distinct races. Again, two of the best-marked varieties of mankind are the Australians and the Bushmen, neither of whom, however, seems to have a natural place in Blumenbach’s series. The yet simpler classification by Cuvier into Caucasian, Mongol and Negro corresponds in some measure with a division by mere complexion into white, yellow and black races; but neither this threefold division, nor the ancient classification into Semitic, Hamitic and Japhetic nations can be regarded as separating the human types either justly or sufficiently (see Prichard, Natural History of Man, sec. 15; Waitz, Anthropology, vol. i. part i. sec. 5). Schemes which set up a larger number of distinct races, such as the eleven of Pickering, the fifteen of Bory de St Vincent and the sixteen of Desmoulins, have the advantage of finding niches for most well-defined human varieties; but no modern naturalist would be likely to adopt any one of these as it stands. In criticism of Pickering’s system, it is sufficient to point out that he divides the white nations into two races, entitled the Arab and the Abyssinian (Pickering, Races of Man, ch. i.). Agassiz, Nott, Crawfurd and others who have assumed a much larger number of races or species of man, are not considered to have satisfactorily defined a corresponding number of distinguishable types. On the whole, Huxley’s division probably approaches more nearly than any other to such a tentative classification as may be accepted in definition of the principal varieties of mankind, regarded from a zoological point of view, though anthropologists may be disposed to erect into separate races several of his widely-differing sub-races. He distinguishes four principal types of mankind, the Australioid, Negroid, Mongoloid and Xanthochroic (“fair whites”), adding a fifth variety, the Melanochroic (“dark whites”).
In determining whether the races of mankind are to be classed as varieties of one species, it is important to decide whether every two races can unite to produce fertile offspring. It is settled by experience that the most numerous and well-known crossed races, such as the Mulattos, descended from Europeans and Negroes—the Mestizos, from Europeans and American indigenes—the Zambos, from these American indigenes and Negroes, &c., are permanently fertile. They practically constitute sub-races, with a general blending of the characters of the two parents, and only differing from fully-established races in more or less tendency to revert to one or other of the original types. It has been argued, on the other hand, that not all such mixed breeds are permanent, and especially that the cross between Europeans and Australian indigenes is almost sterile; but this assertion, when examined with the care demanded by its bearing on the general question of hybridity, has distinctly broken down. On the whole, the general evidence favours the opinion that any two races may combine to produce a new sub-race, which again may combine with any other variety. Thus, if the existence of a small number of distinct races of mankind be taken as a starting-point, it is obvious that their crossing would produce an indefinite number of secondary varieties, such as the population of the world actually presents. The working out in detail of the problem, how far the differences among complex nations, such as those of Europe, may have been brought about by hybridity, is still, however, a task of almost hopeless intricacy. Among the boldest attempts to account for distinctly-marked populations as resulting from the intermixture of two races, are Huxley’s view that the Hottentots are hybrid between the Bushmen and the Negroes, and his more important suggestion, that the Melanochroic peoples of southern Europe are of mixed Xanthochroic and Australioid stock.
The problem of ascertaining how the small number of races, distinct enough to be called primary, can have assumed their different types, has been for years the most disputed field of anthropology, the battle-ground of the rival schools of monogenists and polygenists. The one has claimed all mankind to be descended from one original stock, and generally from a single pair; the other has contended for the several primary races being separate species of independent origin. The great problem of the monogenist theory is to explain by what course of variation the so different races of man have arisen from a single stock. In ancient times little difficulty was felt in this, authorities such as Aristotle and Vitruvius seeing in climate and circumstance the natural cause of racial differences, the Ethiopian having been blackened by the tropical sun, &c. Later and closer observations, however, have shown such influences to be, at any rate, far slighter in amount and slower in operation than was once supposed. A. de Quatrefages brings forward (Unité de l’espèce humaine) his strongest arguments for the variability of races under change of climate, &c. (action du milieu), instancing the asserted alteration in complexion, constitution and character of Negroes in America, and Englishmen in America and Australia. But although the reality of some such modification is not disputed, especially as to stature and constitution, its amount is not enough to upset the counter-proposition of the remarkable permanence of type displayed by races, ages after they have been transported to climates extremely different from that of their former home. Moreover, physically different peoples, such as the Bushmen and Negroes in Africa, show no signs of approximation under the influence of the same climate; while, on the other hand, the coast tribes of Tierra del Fuego and forest tribes of tropical Brazil continue to resemble one another, in spite of extreme differences of climate and food. Darwin is moderate in his estimation of the changes produced on races of man by climate and mode of life within the range of history (Descent of Man, part i. ch. 4 and 7). The slightness and slowness of variation in human races having become known, a great difficulty of the monogenist theory was seen to lie in the apparent shortness of the Biblical chronology. Inasmuch as several well-marked races of mankind, such as the Egyptian, Phoenician, Ethiopian, &c., were much the same three or four thousand years ago as now, their variation from a single stock in the course of any like period could hardly be accounted for without a miracle. This difficulty the polygenist theory escaped, and in consequence it gained ground. Modern views have however tended to restore, though under a new aspect, the doctrine of a single human stock. The fact that man has existed during a vast period of time makes it more easy to assume the continuance of very slow natural variation as having differentiated even the white man and the Negro among the descendants of a common progenitor. On the other hand it does not follow necessarily from a theory of evolution of species that mankind must have descended from a single stock, for the hypothesis of development admits of the argument, that several simian species may have culminated in several races of man. The general tendency of the development theory, however, is against constituting separate species where the differences are moderate enough to be accounted for as due to variation from a single type. Darwin’s summing-up of the evidence as to unity of type throughout the races of mankind is as distinctly a monogenist argument as those of Blumenbach, Prichard or Quatrefages—
- “Although the existing races of man differ in many respects, as in colour, hair, shape of skull, proportions of the body, &c., yet, if their whole organization be taken into consideration, they are found to resemble each other closely in a multitude of points. Many of these points are of so unimportant, or of so singular a nature, that it is extremely improbable that they should have been independently acquired by aboriginally distinct species or races. The same remark holds good with equal or greater force with respect to the numerous points of mental similarity between the most distinct races of man.... Now, when naturalists observe a close agreement in numerous small details of habits, tastes and dispositions between two or more domestic races, or between nearly allied natural forms, they use this fact as an argument that all are descended from a common progenitor who was thus endowed; and, consequently, that all should be classed under the same species. The same argument may be applied with much force to the races of man.”—(Darwin, Descent of Man, part i. ch. 7.)
The main difficulty of the monogenist school has ever been to explain how races which have remained comparatively fixed in type during the long period of history, such as the white man and the Negro, should, in even a far longer period, have passed by variation from a common original. To meet this A. R. Wallace suggests that the remotely ancient representatives of the human species, being as yet animals too low in mind to have developed those arts of maintenance and social ordinances by which man holds his own against influences from climate and circumstance, were in their then wild state much more plastic than now to external nature; so that “natural selection” and other causes met with but feeble resistance in forming the permanent varieties or races of man, whose complexion and structure still remained fixed in their descendants (see Wallace, Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, p. 319). On the whole, it may be asserted that the doctrine of the unity of mankind stands on a firmer basis than in previous ages. It would be premature to judge how far the problem of the origin of races may be capable of exact solution; but the experience gained since 1871 countenances Darwin’s prophecy that before long the dispute between the monogenists and the polygenists would die a silent and unobserved death.
IV. Antiquity of Man.—Until the 19th century man’s first appearance on earth was treated on a historical basis as matter of record. It is true that the schemes drawn up by chronologists differed widely, as was natural, considering the variety and inconsistency of their documentary data. On the whole, the scheme of Archbishop Usher, who computed that the earth and man were created in 4004 B.C., was the most popular (see Chronology). It is no longer necessary, however, to discuss these chronologies. Geology has made it manifest that our earth must have been the seat of vegetable and animal life for an immense period of time; while the first appearance of man, though comparatively recent, is positively so remote, that an estimate between twenty and a hundred thousand years may fairly be taken as a minimum. This geological claim for a vast antiquity of the human race is supported by the similar claims of prehistoric archaeology and the science of culture, the evidence of all three departments of inquiry being intimately connected, and in perfect harmony.
Human bones and objects of human manufacture have been found in such geological relation to the remains of fossil species of elephant, rhinoceros, hyena, bear, &c., as to lead to the distinct inference that man already existed at a remote period in localities where these mammalia are now and have long been extinct. The not quite conclusive researches of Tournal and Christol in limestone caverns of the south of France date back to 1828. About the same time P. C. Schmerling of Liége was exploring the ossiferous caverns of the valley of the Meuse, and satisfied himself that the men whose bones he found beneath the stalagmite floors, together with bones cut and flints shaped by human workmanship, had inhabited this Belgian district at the same time with the cave-bear and several other extinct animals whose bones were imbedded with them (Recherches sur les ossements fossiles découverts dans les cavernes de la province de Liége (Liége, 1833-1834)). This evidence, however, met with little acceptance among scientific men. Nor, at first, was more credit given to the discovery by M. Boucher de Perthes, about 1841, of rude flint hatchets in a sand-bed containing remains of mammoth and rhinoceros at Menchecourt near Abbeville, which first find was followed by others in the same district (see Boucher de Perthes, De l’Industrie primitive, ou les arts à leur origine (1846); Antiquités celtiques et antédiluviennes (Paris, 1847), &c.). Between 1850 and 1860 French and English geologists were induced to examine into the facts, and found irresistible the evidence that man existed and used rude implements of chipped flint during the Quaternary or Drift period. Further investigations were then made, and overlooked results of older ones reviewed. In describing Kent’s Cavern (q.v.) near Torquay, R. A. C. Godwin-Austen had maintained, as early as 1840 (Proc. Geo. Soc. London, vol. iii. p. 286), that the human bones and worked flints had been deposited indiscriminately together with the remains of fossil elephant, rhinoceros, &c. Certain caves and rock-shelters in the province of Dordogne, in central France, were examined by a French and an English archaeologist, Edouard Lartet and Henry Christy, the remains discovered showing the former prevalence of the reindeer in this region, at that time inhabited by savages, whose bone and stone implements indicate a habit of life similar to that of the Eskimos. Moreover, the co-existence of man with a fauna now extinct or confined to other districts was brought to yet clearer demonstration by the discovery in these caves of certain drawings and carvings of the animals done by the ancient inhabitants themselves, such as a group of reindeer on a piece of reindeer horn, and a sketch of a mammoth, showing the elephant’s long hair, on a piece of a mammoth’s tusk from La Madeleine (Lartet and Christy, Reliquiae Aquitanicae, ed. by T. R. Jones (London, 1865), &c.).
This and other evidence (which is considered in more detail in the article Archaeology) is now generally accepted by geologists as carrying back the existence of man into the period of the post-glacial drift, in what is now called the Quaternary period, an antiquity at least of tens of thousands of years. Again, certain inferences have been tentatively made from the depth of mud, earth, peat, &c., which has accumulated above relics of human art imbedded in ancient times. Among these is the argument from the numerous borings made in the alluvium of the Nile valley to a depth of 60 ft., where down to the lowest level fragments of burnt brick and pottery were always found, showing that people advanced enough in the arts to bake brick and pottery have inhabited the valley during the long period required for the Nile inundations to deposit 60 ft. of mud, at a rate probably not averaging more than a few inches in a century. Another argument is that of Professor von Morlot, based on a railway section through a conical accumulation of gravel and alluvium, which the torrent of the Tinière has gradually built up where it enters the Lake of Geneva near Villeneuve. Here three layers of vegetable soil appear, proved by the objects imbedded in them to have been the successive surface soils in two prehistoric periods and in the Roman period, but now lying 4, 10 and 19 ft. underground. On this it is computed that if 4 ft. of soil were formed in the 1500 years since the Roman period, we must go 5000 years farther back for the date of the earliest human inhabitants. Calculations of this kind, loose as they are, deserve attention.
The interval between the Quaternary or Drift period and the period of historical antiquity is to some extent bridged over by relics of various intermediate civilizations, e.g. the Lake-dwellings (q.v.) of Switzerland, mostly of the lower grades, and in some cases reaching back to remote dates. And further evidence of man’s antiquity is afforded by the kitchen-middens or shell-heaps (q.v.), especially those in Denmark. Danish peat-mosses again show the existence of man at a time when the Scotch fir was abundant; at a later period the firs were succeeded by oaks, which have again been almost superseded by beeches, a succession of changes which indicate a considerable lapse of time.
Lastly, chronicles and documentary records, taken in connexion with archaeological relics of the historical period, carry back into distant ages the starting-point of actual history, behind which lies the evidently vast period only known by inferences from the relations of languages and the stages of development of civilization. The most recent work of Egyptologists proves a systematic civilization to have existed in the valley of the Nile at least 6000 to 7000 years ago (see Chronology).
It was formerly held that the early state of society was one of comparatively high culture, and thus there was no hesitation in assigning the origin of man to a time but little beyond the range of historical records and monuments. But the researches of anthropologists in recent years have proved that the civilization of man has been gradually developed from an original stone-age culture, such as characterizes modern savage life. To the 6000 years to which ancient civilization dates back must be added a vast period during which the knowledge, arts and institutions of such a civilization as that of ancient Egypt attained the high level evidenced by the earliest records. The evidence of comparative philology supports the necessity for an enormous time allowance. Thus, Hebrew and Arabic are closely related languages, neither of them the original of the other, but both sprung from some parent language more ancient than either. When, therefore, the Hebrew records have carried back to the most ancient admissible date the existence of the Hebrew language, this date must have been long preceded by that of the extinct parent language of the whole Semitic family; while this again was no doubt the descendant of languages slowly shaping themselves through ages into this peculiar type. Yet more striking is the evidence of the Indo-European (formerly called Aryan) family of languages. The Hindus, Medes, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Germans, Celts and Slavs make their appearance at more or less remote dates as nations separate in language as in history. Nevertheless, it is now acknowledged that at some far remoter time, before these nations were divided from the parent stock, and distributed over Asia and Europe, a single barbaric people stood as physical and political representative of the nascent Aryan race, speaking a now extinct Aryan language, from which, by a series of modifications not to be estimated as possible within many thousands of years, there arose languages which have been mutually unintelligible since the dawn of history, and between which it was only possible for an age of advanced philology to trace the fundamental relationship.
From the combination of these considerations, it will be seen that the farthest date to which documentary or other records extend is now generally regarded by anthropologists as but the earliest distinctly visible point of the historic period, beyond which stretches back a vast indefinite series of prehistoric ages.
V. Language.—In examining how the science of language bears on the general problems of anthropology, it is not necessary to discuss at length the critical questions which arise, the principal of which are considered elsewhere (see Language). Philology is especially appealed to by anthropologists as contributing to the following lines of argument. A primary mental similarity of all branches of the human race is evidenced by their common faculty of speech, while at the same time secondary diversities of race-character and history are marked by difference of grammatical structure and of vocabularies. The existence of groups or families of allied languages, each group being evidently descended from a single language, affords one of the principal aids in classifying nations and races. The adoption by one language of words originally belonging to another, proving as it does the fact of intercourse between two races, and even to some extent indicating the results of such intercourse, affords a valuable clue through obscure regions of the history of civilization.
Communication by gesture-signs, between persons unable to converse in vocal language, is an effective system of expression common to all mankind. Thus, the signs used to ask a deaf and dumb child about his meals and lessons, or to communicate with a savage met in the desert about game or enemies, belong to codes of gesture-signals identical in principle, and to a great extent independent both of nationality and education; there is even a natural syntax, or order of succession, in such gesture-signs. To these gestures let there be added the use of the interjectional cries, such as oh! ugh! hey! and imitative sounds to represent the cat’s mew, the click of a trigger, the clap or thud of a blow, &c. The total result of this combination of gesture and significant sound will be a general system of expression, imperfect but serviceable, and naturally intelligible to all mankind without distinction of race. Nor is such a system of communication only theoretically conceivable; it is, and always has been, in practical operation between people ignorant of one another’s language, and as such is largely used in the intercourse of savage tribes. It is true that to some extent these means of utterance are common to the lower animals, the power of expressing emotion by cries and tones extending far down in the scale of animal life, while rudimentary gesture-signs are made by various mammals and birds. Still, the lower animals make no approach to the human system of natural utterance by gesture-signs and emotional-imitative sounds, while the practical identity of this human system among races physically so unlike as the Englishman and the native of the Australian bush indicates extreme closeness of mental similarity throughout the human species.
When, however, the Englishman and the Australian speak each in his native tongue, only such words as belong to the interjectional and imitative classes will be naturally intelligible, and as it were instinctive to both. Thus the savage, uttering the sound waow! as an explanation of surprise and warning, might be answered by the white man with the not less evidently significant sh! of silence, and the two speakers would be on common ground when the native indicated by the name bwirri his cudgel, flung whirring through the air at a flock of birds, or when the native described as a jakkal-yakkal the bird called by the foreigner a cockatoo. With these, and other very limited classes of natural words, however, resemblance in vocabulary practically ceases. The Australian and English languages each consist mainly of a series of words having no apparent connexion with the ideas they signify, and differing utterly; of course, accidental coincidences and borrowed words must be excluded from such comparisons. It would be easy to enumerate other languages of the world, such as Basque, Turkish, Hebrew, Malay, Mexican, all devoid of traceable resemblance to Australian and English, and to one another. There is, moreover, extreme difference in the grammatical structure both of words and sentences in various languages. The question then arises, how far the employment of different vocabularies, and that to a great extent on different grammatical principles, is compatible with similarity of the speakers’ minds, or how far does diversity of speech indicate diversity of mental nature? The obvious answer is, that the power of using words as signs to express thoughts with which their sound does not directly connect them, in fact as arbitrary symbols, is the highest grade of the special human faculty in language, the presence of which binds together all races of mankind in substantial mental unity. The measure of this unity is, that any child of any race can be brought up to speak the language of any other race.
Under the present standard of evidence in comparing languages and tracing allied groups to a common origin, the crude speculations as to a single primeval language of mankind, which formerly occupied so much attention, are acknowledged to be worthless. Increased knowledge and accuracy of method have as yet only left the way open to the most widely divergent suppositions. For all that known dialects prove to the contrary, on the one hand, there may have been one primitive language, from which the descendant languages have varied so widely, that neither their words nor their formation now indicate their unity in long past ages, while, on the other hand, the primitive tongues of mankind may have been numerous, and the extreme unlikeness of such languages as Basque, Chinese, Peruvian, Hottentot and Sanskrit may arise from absolute independence of origin.
The language spoken by any tribe or nation is not of itself absolute evidence as to its race-affinities. This is clearly shown in extreme cases. Thus the Jews in Europe have almost lost the use of Hebrew, but speak as their vernacular the language of their adopted nation, whatever it may be; even the Jewish-German dialect, though consisting so largely of Hebrew words, is philologically German, as any sentence shows: “Ich hab noch hoiom lo geachelt,” “I have not yet eaten to-day.” The mixture of the Israelites in Europe by marriage with other nations is probably much greater than is acknowledged by them; yet, on the whole, the race has been preserved with extraordinary strictness, as its physical characteristics sufficiently show. Language thus here fails conspicuously as a test of race and even of national history. Not much less conclusive is the case of the predominantly Negro populations of the West India Islands, who, nevertheless, speak as their native tongues dialects of English or French, in which the number of intermingled native African words is very scanty: “Dem hitti netti na ini watra bikasi dem de fisiman,” “They cast a net into the water, because they were fishermen.” (Surinam Negro-Eng.) “Bef pas ca jamain lasse poter cônes li,” “Le bœuf n’est jamais las de porter ses cornes.” (Haitian Negro-Fr.) If it be objected that the linguistic conditions of these two races are more artificial than has been usual in the history of the world, less extreme cases may be seen in countries where the ordinary results of conquest-colonization have taken place. The Mestizos, who form so large a fraction of the population of modern Mexico, numbering several millions, afford a convenient test in this respect, inasmuch as their intermediate complexion separates them from both their ancestral races, the Spaniard, and the chocolate-brown indigenous Aztec or other Mexican. The mother-tongue of this mixed race is Spanish, with an infusion of Mexican words; and a large proportion cannot speak any native dialect. In most or all nations of mankind, crossing or intermarriage of races has thus taken place between the conquering invader and the conquered native, so that the language spoken by the nation may represent the results of conquest as much or more than of ancestry. The supersession of the Celtic Cornish by English, and of the Slavonic Old-Prussian by German, are but examples of a process which has for untold ages been supplanting native dialects, whose very names have mostly disappeared. On the other hand, the language of the warlike invader or peaceful immigrant may yield, in a few generations, to the tongue of the mass of the population, as the Northman’s was replaced by French, and modern German gives way to English in the United States. Judging, then, by the extirpation and adoption of languages within the range of history, it is obvious that to classify mankind into, races, Aryan, Semitic, Turanian, Polynesian, Kaffir, &c., on the mere evidence of language, is intrinsically unsound.
VI. Development of Civilization.—The conditions of man at the lowest and highest known levels of culture are separated by a vast interval; but this interval is so nearly filled by known intermediate stages, that the line of continuity between the lowest savagery and the highest civilization is unbroken at any critical point.
An examination of the details of savage life shows not only that there is an immeasurable difference between the rudest man and the highest lower animal, but also that the least cultured savages have themselves advanced far beyond the lowest intellectual and moral state at which human tribes can be conceived as capable of existing, when placed under favourable circumstances of warm climate, abundant food, and security from too severe destructive influences. The Australian black-fellow or the forest Indian of Brazil, who may be taken as examples of the lowest modern savage, had, before contact with whites, attained to rudimentary stages in many of the characteristic functions of civilized life. His language, expressing thoughts by conventional articulate sounds, is the same in essential principle as the most cultivated philosophic dialect, only less exact and copious. His weapons, tools and other appliances such as the hammer, hatchet, spear, knife, awl, thread, net, canoe, &c., are the evident rudimentary analogues of what still remains in use among Europeans. His structures, such as the hut, fence, stockade, earthwork, &c., may be poor and clumsy, but they are of the same nature as our own. In the simple arts of broiling and roasting meat, the use of hides and furs for covering, the plaiting of mats and baskets, the devices of hunting, trapping and fishing, the pleasure taken in personal ornament, the touches of artistic decoration on objects of daily use, the savage differs in degree but not in kind from the civilized man. The domestic and social affections, the kindly care of the young and the old, some acknowledgment of marital and parental obligation, the duty of mutual defence in the tribe, the authority of the elders, and general respect to traditional custom as the regulator of life and duty, are more or less well marked in every savage tribe which is not disorganized and falling to pieces. Lastly, there is usually to be discerned amongst such lower races a belief in unseen powers pervading the universe, this belief shaping itself into an animistic or spiritualistic theology, mostly resulting in some kind of worship. If, again, high savage or low barbaric types be selected, as among the North American Indians, Polynesians, and Kaffirs of South Africa, the same elements of culture appear, but at a more advanced stage, namely, a more full and accurate language, more knowledge of the laws of nature, more serviceable implements, more perfect industrial processes, more definite and fixed social order and frame of government, more systematic and philosophic schemes of religion and a more elaborate and ceremonial worship. At intervals new arts and ideas appear, such as agriculture and pasturage, the manufacture of pottery, the use of metal implements and the device of record and communication by picture writing. Along such stages of improvement and invention the bridge is fairly made between savage and barbaric culture; and this once attained to, the remainder of the series of stages of civilization lies within the range of common knowledge.
The teaching of history, during the three to four thousand years of which contemporary chronicles have been preserved, is that civilization is gradually developed in the course of ages by enlargement and increased precision of knowledge, invention and improvement of arts, and the progression of social and political habits and institutions towards general well-being. That processes of development similar to these were in prehistoric times effective to raise culture from the savage to the barbaric level, two considerations especially tend to prove. First, there are numerous points in the culture even of rude races which are not explicable otherwise than on the theory of development. Thus, though difficult or superfluous arts may easily be lost, it is hard to imagine the abandonment of contrivances of practical daily utility, where little skill is required and materials are easily accessible. Had the Australians or New Zealanders, for instance, ever possessed the potter’s art, they could hardly have forgotten it. The inference that these tribes represent the stage of culture before the invention of pottery is confirmed by the absence of buried fragments of pottery in the districts they inhabit. The same races who were found making thread by the laborious process of twisting with the hand, would hardly have disused, if they had ever possessed, so simple a labour-saving device as the spindle, which consists merely of a small stick weighted at one end; the spindle may, accordingly, be regarded as an instrument invented somewhere between the lowest and highest savage levels (Tylor, Early Hist. of Mankind, p. 193). Again, many devices of civilization bear unmistakable marks of derivation from a lower source; thus the ancient Egyptian and Assyrian harps, which differ from ours in having no front pillar, appear certainly to owe this remarkable defect to having grown up through intermediate forms from the simple strung bow, the still used type of the most primitive stringed instrument. In this way the history of numeral words furnishes actual proof of that independent intellectual progress among savage tribes which some writers have rashly denied. Such words as hand, hands, foot, man, &c., are used as numerals signifying 5, 10, 15, 20, &c., among many savage and barbaric peoples; thus Polynesian lima, i.e. “hand,” means 5; Zulu tatisitupa, i.e. “taking the thumb,” means 6; Greenlandish arfersanek-pingasut, i.e. “on the other foot three,” means 18; Tamanac tevin itoto, i.e. “one man,” means 20, &c., &c. The existence of such expressions demonstrates that the people who use them had originally no spoken names for these numbers, but once merely counted them by gesture on their fingers and toes in low savage fashion, till they obtained higher numerals by the inventive process of describing in words these counting-gestures. Second, the process of “survival in culture” has caused the preservation in each stage of society of phenomena, belonging to an earlier period, but kept up by force of custom into the later, thus supplying evidence of the modern condition being derived from the ancient. Thus the mitre over an English bishop’s coat-of-arms is a survival which indicates him as the successor of bishops who actually wore mitres, while armorial bearings themselves, and the whole craft of heraldry, are survivals bearing record of a state of warfare and social order whence our present state was by vast modification evolved. Evidence of this class, proving the derivation of modern civilization, not only from ancient barbarism, but beyond this, from primeval savagery, is immensely plentiful, especially in rites and ceremonies, where the survival of ancient habits is peculiarly favoured. Thus the modern Hindu, though using civilized means for lighting his household fires, retains the savage “fire-drill” for obtaining fire by friction of wood when what he considers pure or sacred fire has to be produced for sacrificial purposes; while in Europe into modern times the same primitive process has been kept up in producing the sacred and magical “need-fire,” which was lighted to deliver cattle from a murrain. Again, the funeral offerings of food, clothing, weapons, &c., to the dead are absolutely intelligible and purposeful among savage races, who believe that the souls of the departed are ethereal beings capable of consuming food, and of receiving and using the souls or phantoms of any objects sacrificed for their use. The primitive philosophy to which these conceptions belong has to a great degree been discredited by modern science; yet the clear survivals of such ancient and savage rites may still be seen in Europe, where the Bretons leave the remains of the All Souls’ supper on the table for the ghosts of the dead kinsfolk to partake of, and Russian peasants set out cakes for the ancestral manes on the ledge which supports the holy pictures, and make dough ladders to assist the ghosts of the dead to ascend out of their graves and start on their journey for the future world; while other provision for the same spiritual journey is made when the coin is still put in the hand of the corpse at an Irish wake. In like manner magic still exists in the civilized world as a survival from the savage and barbaric times to which it originally belongs, and in which is found the natural source and proper home of utterly savage practices still carried on by ignorant peasants in Great Britain, such as taking omens from the cries of animals, or bewitching an enemy by sticking full of pins and hanging up to shrivel in the smoke an image or other object, that similar destruction may fall on the hated person represented by the symbol (Tylor, Primitive Culture, ch. i., iii., iv., xi., xii.; Early Hist. of Man, ch. vi.).
The comparative science of civilization thus not only generalizes the data of history, but supplements its information by laying down the lines of development along which the lowest prehistoric culture has gradually risen to the highest modern level. Among the most clearly marked of these lines is that which follows the succession of the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages (see Archaeology). The Stone Age represents the early condition of mankind in general, and has remained in savage districts up to modern times, while the introduction of metals need not at once supersede the use of the old stone hatchets and arrows, which have often long continued in dwindling survival by the side of the new bronze and even iron ones. The Bronze Age had its most important place among ancient nations of Asia and Europe, and among them was only succeeded after many centuries by the Iron Age; while in other districts, such as Polynesia and Central and South Africa, and America (except Mexico and Peru), the native tribes were moved directly from the Stone to the Iron Age without passing through the Bronze Age at all. Although the three divisions of savage, barbaric, and civilized man do not correspond at all perfectly with the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages, this classification of civilization has proved of extraordinary value in arranging in their proper order of culture the nations of the Old World.
Another great line of progress has been followed by tribes passing from the primitive state of the wild hunter, fisher and fruit-gatherer to that of the settled tiller of the soil, for to this change of habit may be plainly in great part traced the expansion of industrial arts and the creation of higher social and political institutions. These, again, have followed their proper lines along the course of time. Among such is the immense legal development by which the primitive law of personal vengeance passed gradually away, leaving but a few surviving relics in the modern civilized world, and being replaced by the higher doctrine that crime is an offence against society, to be repressed for the public good. Another vast social change has been that from the patriarchal condition, in which the unit is the family under the despotic rule of its head, to the systems in which individuals make up a society whose government is centralized in a chief or king. In the growth of systematic civilization, the art of writing has had an influence so intense, that of all tests to distinguish the barbaric from the civilized state, none is so generally effective as this, whether they have but the failing link with the past which mere memory furnishes, or can have recourse to written records of past history and written constitutions of present order. Lastly, still following the main lines of human culture, the primitive germs of religious institutions have to be traced in the childish faith and rude rites of savage life, and thence followed in their expansion into the vast systems administered by patriarchs and priests, henceforth taking under their charge the precepts of morality, and enforcing them under divine sanction, while also exercising in political life an authority beside or above the civil law.
The state of culture reached by Quaternary man is evidenced by the stone implements in the drift-gravels, and other relics of human art in the cave deposits. His drawings on bone or tusk found in the caves show no mean artistic power, as appears by the three specimens copied in the Plate. That representing two deer (fig. 6) was found so early as 1852 in the breccia of a limestone cave on the Charente, and its importance recognized in a remarkable letter by Prosper Merimée, as at once historically ancient and geologically modern (Congrès d’anthropologie et d’archéologie préhistoriques, Copenhagen (1869), p. 128). The other two are the famous mammoth from the cave of La Madeleine, on which the woolly mane and huge tusks of Elephas primigenius are boldly drawn (fig. 7); and the group of man and horses (fig. 8). There has been found one other contemporary portrait of man, where a hunter is shown stalking an aurochs.
That the men of the Quaternary period knew the savage art of producing fire by friction, and roasted the flesh on which they mainly subsisted, is proved by the fragments of charcoal found in the cave deposits, where also occur bone awls and needles, which indicate the wearing of skin clothing, like that of the modern Australians and Fuegians. Their bone lance-heads and dart-points were comparable to those of northern and southern savages. Particular attention has to be given to the stone implements used by these earliest known of mankind. The division of tribes in the stone implement stage into two classes, the Palaeolithic or Old Stone Age, and the Neolithic or New Stone Age, according to their proficiency in this most important art furnishes in some respects the best means of determining their rank in general culture.
In order to put this argument clearly before the reader, a few selected implements are figured in the Plate. The group in fig. 9 contains tools and weapons of the Neolithic period such as are dug up on European soil; they are evident relics of ancient populations who used them till replaced by metal. The stone hatchets are symmetrically shaped and edged by grinding, while the cutting flakes, scrapers, spear and arrow heads are of high finish. Direct knowledge of the tribes who made them is scanty, but implements so similar in make and design having been in use in North and South America until modern times, it may be assumed for purposes of classification that the Neolithic peoples of the New World were at a similar barbarous level in industrial arts, social organization, moral and religious ideas. Such comparison, though needing caution and reserve, at once proved of great value to anthropology. When, however, there came to light from the drift-gravels and limestone caves of Europe the Palaeolithic implements, of which some types are shown in the group (fig. 10), the difficult problem presented itself, what degree of general culture these rude implements belonged to. On mere inspection, their rudeness, their unsuitability for being hafted, and the absence of shaping and edging by the grindstone, mark their inferiority to the Neolithic implements. Their immensely greater antiquity was proved by their geological position and their association with a long extinct fauna, and they were not, like the Neoliths, recognizable as corresponding closely to the implements used by modern tribes. There was at first a tendency to consider the Palaeoliths as the work of men ruder than savages, if, indeed, their makers were to be accounted human at all. Since then, however, the problem has passed into a more manageable state. Stone implements, more or less approaching the European Palaeolithic type, were found in Africa from Egypt southwards, where in such parts as Somaliland and Cape Colony they lie about on the ground, as though they had been the rough tools and weapons of the rude inhabitants of the land at no very distant period. The group in fig. 11 in the Plate shows the usual Somaliland types. These facts tended to remove the mystery from Palaeolithic man, though too little is known of the ruder ancient tribes of Africa to furnish a definition of the state of culture which might have co-existed with the use of Palaeolithic implements. Information to this purpose, however, can now be furnished from a more outlying region. This is Tasmania, where as in the adjacent continent of Australia, the survival of marsupial animals indicates long isolation from the rest of the world. Here, till far on into the 19th century, the Englishmen could watch the natives striking off flakes of stone, trimming them to convenient shape for grasping them in the hand, and edging them by taking off successive chips on one face only. The group in fig. 12 shows ordinary Tasmanian forms, two of them being finer tools for scraping and grooving. (For further details reference may be made to H. Ling Roth, The Tasmanians, (2nd ed., 1899); R. Brough Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria (1878), vol. ii.; Papers and Proceedings of Royal Society of Tasmania; and papers by the present writer in Journal of the Anthropological Institute.) The Tasmanians, when they came in contact with the European explorers and settlers, were not the broken outcasts they afterwards became. They were a savage people, perhaps the lowest in culture of any known, but leading a normal, self-supporting, and not unhappy life, which had probably changed little during untold ages. The accounts, imperfect as they are, which have been preserved of their arts, beliefs and habits, thus present a picture of the arts, beliefs and habits of tribes whose place in the Stone Age was a grade lower than that of Palaeolithic man of the Quaternary period.
The Tasmanian stone implements, figured in the Plate, show their own use when it is noticed that the rude chipping forms a good hand-grip above, and an effective edge for chopping, sawing, and cutting below. But the absence of the long-shaped implements, so characteristic of the Neolithic and Palaeolithic series, and serviceable as picks, hatchets, and chisels, shows remarkable limitation in the mind of these savages, who made a broad, hand-grasped knife their tool of all work to cut, saw, and chop with. Their weapons were the wooden club or waddy notched to the grasp, and spears of sticks, often crooked but well balanced, with points sharpened by tool or fire, and sometimes jagged. No spear thrower or bow and arrow was known. The
Tasmanian savages were crafty warriors and kangaroo-hunters, and the women climbed the highest trees by notching, in quest of opossums. Shell-fish and crabs were taken, and seals knocked on the head with clubs, but neither fish-hook nor fishing-net was known, and indeed swimming fish were taboo as food. Meat and vegetable food, such as fern-root, was broiled over the fire, but boiling in a vessel was unknown. The fire was produced by the ordinary savage fire-drill. Ignorant of agriculture, with no dwellings but rough huts or breakwinds of sticks and bark, without dogs or other domestic animals, these savages, until the coming of civilized man, roamed after food within their tribal bounds. Logs and clumsy floats of bark and grass enabled them to cross water under favourable circumstances. They had clothing of skins rudely stitched together with bark thread, and they were decorated with simple necklaces of kangaroo teeth, shells and berries. Among their simple arts, plaiting and basket-work was one in which they approached the civilized level. The pictorial art of the Tasmanians was poor and childish, quite below that of the Palaeolithic men of Europe. The Tasmanians spoke a fairly copious agglutinating language, well marked as to parts of speech, syntax and inflexion. Numeration was at a low level, based on counting fingers on one hand only, so that the word for man (puggana) stood also for the number 5. The religion of the Tasmanians, when cleared from ideas apparently learnt from the whites, was a simple form of animism based on the shadow (warrawa) being the soul or spirit. The strongest belief of the natives was in the power of the ghosts of the dead, so that they carried the bones of relatives to secure themselves from harm, and they fancied the forest swarming with malignant demons. They placed weapons near the grave for the dead friend’s soul to use, and drove out disease from the sick by exorcising the ghost which was supposed to have caused it. Of greater special spirits of Nature we find something vaguely mentioned. The earliest recorders of the native social life set down such features as their previous experience of rude civilized life had made them judges of. They notice the self-denying affection of the mothers, and the hard treatment of the wives by the husbands, polygamy and the shifting marriage unions. But when we meet with a casual remark as to the tendency of the Tasmanians to take wives from other tribes than their own, it seems likely that they had some custom of exogamy which the foreigners did not understand. Meagre as is the information preserved of the arts, thoughts, and customs of these survivors from the lower Stone Age, it is of value as furnishing even a temporary and tentative means of working out the development of culture on a basis not of conjecture but of fact.
Conclusion.—To-day anthropology is grappling with the heavy task of systematizing the vast stores of knowledge to which the key was found by Boucher de Perthes, by Lartet, Christy and their successors. There have been recently no discoveries to rival in novelty those which followed the exploration of the bone-caves and drift-gravels, and which effected an instant revolution in all accepted theories of man’s antiquity, substituting for a chronology of centuries a vague computation of hundreds of thousands of years. The existence of man in remote geological time cannot now be questioned, but, despite much effort made in likely localities, no bones, with the exception of those of the much-discussed Pithecanthropus, have been found which can be regarded as definitely bridging the gulf between man and the lower creation. It seems as if anthropology had in this direction reached the limits of its discoveries. Far different are the prospects in other directions where the work of co-ordinating the material and facts collected promises to throw much light on the history of civilization. Anthropological researches undertaken all over the globe have shown the necessity of abandoning the old theory that a similarity of customs and superstitions, of arts and crafts, justifies the assumption of a remote relationship, if not an identity of origin, between races. It is now certain that there has ever been an inherent tendency in man, allowing for difference of climate and material surroundings, to develop culture by the same stages and in the same way. American man, for example, need not necessarily owe the minutest portion of his mental, religious, social or industrial development to remote contact with Asia or Europe, though he were proved to possess identical usages. An example in point is that of pyramid-building. No ethnical relationship can ever have existed between the Aztecs and the Egyptians; yet each race developed the idea of the pyramid tomb through that psychological similarity which is as much a characteristic of the species man as is his physique.