Page:Eskimo Life.djvu/240

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

they can count to over a hundred, which they call untritigdlit[1]; but I strongly suspect that they have still a difficulty in forming any distinct conception of so high a number. A thousand they call tusintigdlit.[2]

This primitive Eskimo method of numeration answers to what we find among most primitive peoples, the fingers and toes having been from all time the most natural appliances for counting with; even our forefathers no doubt reckoned in the same way. Imperfect though it be, however, this method is a great advance upon that of the Australian tribes, who cannot count beyond three, or in some cases not beyond two, and whose numerals consist of: 'One, two, plenty.' That the forefathers of the Eskimos, as of all other peoples, at one time stood on this level appears from their original grammar, in which we find a singular, dual, and plural, as in Gothic, Greek, Sanscrit, the Semitic languages, and many others.

All travellers agree in acknowledging the Eskimo's remarkable sense of locality and talent for topography. When Captain Ommaney, in 1850, asked an Eskimo from Cape York to draw the coast, he took a pencil, a thing he had never seen before, and sketched the coast-line along Smith's Sound from his birthplace northwards with astonishing accuracy, indicating all the islands, and the more

  1. Danish, hundrede.
  2. Danish, tusinde.