Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/71

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

lower conditions were races at the level of the Natchez of Louisiana and the Apalaches of Florida. Linguistic connexion is not unknown between the more advanced peoples and the lower races around them.[1] But definite evidence showing the higher culture to have arisen from the lower, or the lower to have fallen from the higher, is scarcely forthcoming. Both operations may in degree have happened.

It is apparent, from such general inspection of this ethnological problem, that it would repay a far closer, study than it has as yet received. As the evidence stands at present, it appears that when in any race some branches much excel the rest in culture, this more often happens by elevation than by subsidence. But this elevation is much more apt to be produced by foreign than by native action. Civilization is a plant much oftener propagated than developed. As regards the lower races, this accords with the results of European intercourse with savage tribes during the last three or four centuries; so far as these tribes have survived the process, they have assimilated more or less of European Culture and risen towards the European level, as in Polynesia, South Africa, South America. Another important point becomes manifest from this ethnological survey. The fact, that during so many thousand years of known existence, neither the Aryan nor the Semitic race appears to have thrown off any direct savage offshoot, tells, with some force, against the probability of degradation to the savage level ever happening from high-level civilization.

With regard to the opinions of older writers on early civilization, whether progressionists or degenerationists, it must be borne in mind that the evidence at their disposal

  1. For the connexion between the Aztec language and the Sonoran family extending N. W. toward the sources of the Missouri, see Buschmann, 'Spuren der Aztekischen Sprache im Nördlichen Mexico,' &c., in Abh. der Akad. der Wissensch, 1854; Berlin, 1859; also Tr. Eth. Soc., vol. ii. p. 130. For the connexion between the Natchez and Maya languages see Daniel G. Brinton, in 'American Historical Magazine,' 1867, vol. i. p. 16; and 'Myths of the New World,' p. 28.