Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/90

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of the Indians via a still tropical Northern Asia and North America is confirmed by their going naked. Had they passed through a climate like that of the Kamtchatka of to-day, they must have worn clothing; and a people that once has acquired that habit never abandons it afterward. Further, it must be observed that the American Indians generally are bad seamen, attempting only coastwise voyages; and this fact also renders the supposition of an oceanic immigration improbable. Whether man was the earliest cultivator of plants is doubtful, for we know of one or two species of ants which also regularly cultivate certain plants. We have, therefore, no reason to doubt that the very early ancestors of the Indians, however barbarous they may have been, cultivated a plant the culture of which is very easy and whose produce is most abundant, for it yields, as Humboldt has shown, on the same area, twenty-five times as large a crop and twenty-five times as much food-value as wheat.

I will consider the only two objections that have hitherto been brought against my hypothesis:

1. The importation of this plant by seamen who would have reached the American coast in their frail canoes, being favored by ocean-currents, is not possible, because within the tropics there is but one ocean current from Asia toward America, namely, the equatorial current; but now this current, strictly speaking, does not touch Asia at all, but has its beginning at a point eastward of the Philippines and the Moluccas. If we make the very bold supposition—for a waste of water 80° wide, or twelve hundred geographical miles, has to be crossed, or two thousand geographical miles from the Moluccas—that such immigration is possible, then Polynesian and not Mongolian races would inhabit America, which is contrary to the facts of the case. 2. Or, supposing an immigration along a line near to the equator, we must presuppose a regular intercourse in prehistoric times between Southern China or Farther India and Central America, so that the later immigrants might make preparation for carrying out with them on a long sea-voyage living plants, as the banana, paritium, bamboo, etc.: for this supposition there is no ground whatever. Besides, many traditions current among various American tribes point to an immigration from the north, while the equatorial current only touches America at Panama.

I have still to meet another objection, namely, that the banana, when man began to cultivate it, must have had seeds (though this is so no longer), and that the seeds only were brought to America at an early period. This is inadmissible, because in that case the plantain must often have reverted to the wild state, like all other seed-bearing tropical fruits. But the plantain does not grow wild, though in tropical America it finds the same conditions of vegetation as in its native country, and hence thrives there. The wild plantain in India has small stony seeds, and is distributed widely by monkeys, bats, and insects.