Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/85

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75
A HALF-CENTURY OF SCIENCE.

implements, and though it seemed a priori improbable that a compound of copper and tin should have preceded the simple metal iron, nevertheless, the researches of archæologists have shown that there really was in Europe a "bronze age," which at the dawn of history was just giving way to that of "iron." The contents of ancient graves, buried in many cases so that their owner might carry some at least of his wealth with him to the world of spirits, left no room for doubt as to the existence of a bronze age; but we get a completer idea of the condition of man at this period from the Swiss lake-villages, first made known to us by Keller. Along the shallow edges of the Swiss lakes there flourished, once upon a time, many populous villages or towns, built on platforms supported by piles, exactly as many Malayan villages are now. Under these circumstances innumerable objects were one by one dropped into the water; sometimes whole villages were burned, and their contents submerged; and thus we have been able to recover, from the waters of oblivion in which they had rested for more than two thousand years, not only the arms and tools of this ancient people, the bones of their animals, their pottery and ornaments, but the stuffs they wore, the grain they had stored up for future use, even fruits and cakes of bread.

But this bronze-using people were not the earliest occupants of Europe. The contents of ancient tombs give evidence of a time when metal was unknown. This also was confirmed by the evidence then unexpectedly received from the Swiss lakes. By the side of the bronze-age villages were others, not less extensive, in which, while implements of stone and bone were discovered literally by thousands, not a trace of metal was met with. The shell-mounds, or refuse-heaps, accumulated by the ancient fishermen along the shores of Denmark, fully confirmed the existence of a "stone age."

No bones of the reindeer, no fragment of any of the extinct mammalia, have been found in any of the Swiss lake-villages or in any of the thousands of tumuli which have been opened in our own country, or in Central and Southern Europe. Yet the contents of caves and of river-gravels afford abundant evidence that there was a time when the mammoth and rhinoceros, the musk-ox and reindeer, the cave-lion and hyena, the great bear and the gigantic Irish elk wandered in our woods and valleys, and the hippopotamus floated in our rivers; when England and France were united, and the Thames and the Rhine had a common estuary. This was long supposed to be before the advent of man. At length, however, the discoveries of Boucher de Perthes in the valley of the Somme, supported as they are by the researches of many Continental naturalists, and in our own country of MacEnery and Godwin-Austen, Prestwich and Lyell, Vivian and Pengelly, Christy, Evans, and many more, have proved that man formed a humble part of this strange assembly. Nay, even at this early period there were at least two distinct races of men in Europe; one of them—as