Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/75

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57
PREHISTORIC ARCHÆOLOGY.

that of the remains of old cultivation-terraces in Borneo, the work of Chinese colonists whose descendants have mostly been merged in the mass of the population and follow the native habits.[1] On the other hand, the evidence of locality may be misleading as to race. A traveller in Greenland, coming on the ruined stone buildings at Kakortok, would not argue justly that the Esquimaux are degenerate descendants of ancestors capable of such architecture, for in fact these are the remains of a church and baptistery built by the ancient Scandinavian settlers.[2] On the whole it is remarkable how little of colourable evidence of degeneration has been disclosed by archæology. Its negative evidence tells strongly the other way. As an instance may be quoted Sir John Lubbock's argument against the idea that tribes now ignorant of metallurgy and pottery formerly possessed but have since lost these arts. 'We may also assert, on a general proposition, that no weapons or instruments of metal have ever been found in any country inhabited by savages wholly ignorant of metallurgy. A still stronger case is afforded by pottery. Pottery is not easily destroyed; when known at all it is always abundant, and it possesses two qualities, namely, those of being easy to break and yet difficult to destroy, which render it very valuable in an archæological point of view. Moreover, it is in most cases associated with burials. It is, therefore, a very significant fact, that no fragment of pottery has ever been found in Australia, New Zealand, or in the Polynesian Islands.'[3] How different a state of things the popular degeneration-theory would lead us to expect is pointedly suggested by Sir Charles Lyell's sarcastic sentences in his 'Antiquity of Man.' Had the original stock of mankind, he argues, been really endowed with superior intellectual powers and inspired knowledge, while possessing the same improvable nature as their posterity, how extreme a point of advancement would

  1. St. John, 'Life in Forests of Far East,' vol. ii. p. 327.
  2. Rafn, 'Americas Arctiske Landes Gamle Geographie,' pi. vii., viii.
  3. Lubbock (Lord Avebury), in 'Report of British Association, 1867,' p. 121.