Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/543

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ments were very few in number, each, no doubt, serving a number of purposes, the function varying with the requirements of the moment. They had no bows or other appliances for accelerating the flight of missiles, no pottery, no permanent dwellings; nor is there any evidence of a previous knowledge of such products of higher culture. They seem to represent a race which was isolated very early from contact with higher races; in fact, before they had developed more than the merest rudiments of culture—a race continuing to live under the most primitive conditions, from which they were never destined to emerge.

Between the Tasmanians, representing in their very low culture the one extreme, and the most civilized peoples at the other extreme, lie races exhibiting in a general way intermediate conditions of advancement or retardation. If we are justified, as I think we are, in regarding the various grades of culture observable among the more lowly of the still existing races of man as representing to a considerable extent those vanished cultures which in their succession formed the different stages by which civilization emerged gradually from a low state, it surely becomes a very important duty for us to study with energy these living illustrations of early human history in order that the archeological record may be supplemented and rendered more complete. The material for this study is vanishing so fast with the spread of civilization that opportunities lost now will never be regained, and already even it is practically impossible to find native tribes which are wholly uncontaminated with the products, good or bad, of higher cultures.

The arts of living races help to elucidate what is obscure in those of prehistoric times by the process of reasoning from the known to the unknown. It is the work of the zoologist which enables the paleontologist to reconstruct the forms of extinct animals from such fragmentary remains as have been preserved, and it is largely from the results of a comparative study of living forms and their habitats that he is able, in his descriptions, to equip the reconstructed types of a past fauna with environments suited to their structure, and to render more complete the picture of their mode of life.

In like manner, the work of the ethnologist can throw light upon the researches of the archeologist; through it broken sequences may be repaired, at least suggestively, and the interpretation of the true nature and use of objects of antiquity may frequently be rendered more sure. Colonel Lane Fox strongly advocated the application of the reasoning methods of biology to the study of the origin, phylogeny and etionomics of the arts of mankind, and his own collection demonstrated that the products of human intelligence can conveniently be classified into families, genera, species and varieties, and must be so grouped if their affinities and development are to be investigated.

It must not be supposed—although some people, through misap-