Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/275

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

Reviews. 237

proto-Semitic cosmogonic myths, we should, it is clear, find these same myths among their neighbours also, and, a fortiori, among all sections of the Masai. But Mr. Mollis cannot find Semitic myths in British territory, nor have they been discovered among any of the other tribes mentioned.

Arguments as to racial affinity may be based on (i) physical character, (2) material, or (3) mental culture; and their evi- dential value is roughly in the order given. The evidence from physical character is open to two objections in the present case : {a) we do not know with certainty what the primitive Semitic type was ; (h) we know still less to what crossings and intermixtures the Masai have been exposed in the three or four thousand years that, on Merker's theory, have elapsed since they lived in their original home. Physical evidence may therefore be set aside.

2. Little or no proof of Semitic origin can be discovered in the material culture of the Masai, The temhe is, according to v. Luschan, a West-iVsiatic product, and this form of habitation is in use over a considerable area of East Africa ; but only a portion of the Masai make use of it, from which it seems clear that it is an imported feature among them, and not part of their primeval culture.

3. Language is never a safe guide in ethnological questions ; the Masai language is undoubtedly Hamitic ; if, therefore, the evidence of language goes for anything, they are not Semitic. Of course in so saying I do not overlook the connection traced by Erman between Hamitic and Semitic languages. But it is clear that no argument based on this view can be anything but sub- versive of Merker's theory ; for if one thing is certain, it is that Egyptian mythology was not Semitic ; but the language argument makes the Masai no more Semitic than the Egyptian, and demands that Masai and Egyptian alike shall have brought from their Asiatic (?) home the myths on which Aterker relies ; if these myths are not found among the ancient Egyptians and other Hamitic peoples, the obvious conclusion is that the Masai mythology is no part of the original inheritance of the Hamites. To reply to this objection, as Merker would presumably do, by arguing that the Masai are non-Semitic in language and material culture, (he argues, though on slight grounds, that they represent the