Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/163

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

the sea. This he describes as the geological deluge which separates the post-glacial period from the modern, and the earlier from the later prehistoric period of the archæologists.

My reason for going here into these computations of Dr. Dawson's is, that the date about 2200 b. c. to which he thus assigns these great geological convulsions, is actually within historic times. In Egypt successive dynasties had been reigning for ages, and the pyramids had long been built; while in Babylonia the old Chaldean kings had been raising the temples whose ruins still remain. That is to say, we are asked to receive, as matter of geology, that stupendous geological changes were going on not far from the Mediterranean, including a final plunge of I know not how much of the earth's surface beneath the waters, and yet national life on the banks of the Nile and the Euphrates went on unbroken and apparently undisturbed through it all. To us in this section it is instructive to see how the free use of paroxysms and cataclysms makes it possible to shorten up geological time. Accustomed as we are to geology demanding periods of time which often seem to history exorbitant, the tables are now turned, and we are presented with the unusual spectacle of Chronology protesting against Geology for encroaching on the historical period.

In connection with the question of quaternary man, it is worth while to notice that the use of the terms "primeval" or "primitive" man, with reference to the savages of the mammoth period, seems sometimes to lead to unsound inferences. There appears no particular reason to think that the relics from the drift-beds or bone-caves represent man as he first appeared on the earth. The contents of the caves especially bear witness to a state of savage art, in some respects fairly high, and which may possibly have somewhat fallen off from an ancestral state in a more favorable climate. Indeed, the savage condition generally, though rude and more or less representing early stages of culture, never looks absolutely primitive, just as no savage language ever has the appearance of being a primitive language. What the appearance and state of our really primeval ancestors may have been seems too speculative a question, until there shall be more signs of agreement between the anthropologists, who work back by comparison of actual races of man toward an hypothetical common stock, and the zoologists, who approach the problem through the species adjoining the human. There is, however, a point relating to the problem to which attention is due. Naturalists not unreasonably claim to find the geographical center of man in the tropical regions of the Old World inhabited by his nearest zoölogical allies, the anthropomorphous apes, and there is at any rate force enough in such a view to make careful quest of human remains' worth while in those districts, from Africa across to the Eastern Archipelago. Under the care of Mr. John Evans a fund has been raised for excavations in the caves of Borneo by Mr. Everett, and, though the search has as yet had no striking result, money is well