Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/81

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71
DIFFICULTIES OF DEVELOPMENT, ETC.

Now these admitted facts about the Great Pyramid are surely remarkable, and worthy of the deepest consideration. They are facts which, in the pregnant words of the late Sir John Herschel, "according to received theories ought not to happen," and which, he tells us, should therefore be kept ever present to our minds, since "they belong to the class of facts which serve as the clew to new discoveries." According to modern theories, the higher civilization is ever a growth and an outcome from a preceding lower state; and it is inferred that this progress is visible to us throughout all history and in all the material records of human intellect. But here we have a building which marks the very dawn of history—which is the oldest authentic monument of man's genius and skill, and which, instead of being far inferior, is very much superior to all which followed it. Great men are the products of their age and country, and the designer and constructors of this wonderful monument could never have arisen among an unintellectual and half-barbarous people. So perfect a work implies many preceding less perfect works which have disappeared. It marks the culminating point of an ancient civilization, of the early stages of which we have no record whatever.

The three cases to which I have now adverted (and there are many others) seem to require for their satisfactory interpretation a somewhat different view of human progress from that which is now generally accepted. Taken in connection with the great intellectual power of the ancient Greeks—which Mr. Galton believes to have been far above that of the average of any modern nation—and the elevation, at once intellectual and moral, displayed in the writings of Confucius, Zoroaster, and the Vedas, they point to the conclusion that, while in material progress there has been a tolerably steady advance, man's intellectual and moral development reached almost its highest level in a very remote past. The lower, the more animal, but often the more energetic types, have, however, always been far the more numerous; hence such established societies as have here and there arisen under the guidance of higher minds have always been liable to be swept, away by the incursions of barbarians. Thus, in almost every part of the globe there may have been a long succession of partial civilization, each in turn succeeded by a period of barbarism; and this view seems supported by the occurrence of degraded types of skull along with such "as might have belonged to a philosopher"—at a time when the mammoth and the reindeer inhabited Southern France.

Nor need we fear that there is not time enough for the rise and decay of so many successive civilizations as this view would imply; for the opinion is now gaining ground among geologists that paleolithic man was really preglacial, and that the great gap—marked alike by a change of physical conditions, and of animal life—which in Europe always separates him from his neolithic successor, was caused by the coming on and passing away of the great Ice age.