Page:The Outline of History Vol 1.djvu/231

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
207
THE FIRST CIVILIZATIONS

sea-going canoes into the islands of the Pacific came much later in the history of man, at earliest a thousand years b.c. Still later did they reach Madagascar. The beauty of New Zealand also was as yet wasted upon mankind; its highest living creatures were a great ostrich-like bird, the moa, now extinct, and the little kiwi which has feathers like coarse hair and the merest rudiment of wings.

In North America a group of Mongoloid tribes were now cut off altogether from the old world. They were spreading slowly southward, hunting the innumerable bison of the plains. They had still to learn for themselves the secrets of a separate agriculture based on maize, and in South America to tame the lama to their service and so build up in Mexico and Peru two civilizations roughly parallel in their nature to that of Sumer, but different in many respects, and later by six or seven thousand years....

When men reached the southern extremity of America, the Megatherium, the giant sloth, and the Glyptodon, the giant armadillo, were still living....

There is a considerable imaginative appeal in the obscure story of the early American civilizations. It was largely a separate development.[1] Somewhen at last the southward drift of the Amerindians must have met and mingled with the eastward, canoe-borne drift of the heliolithic culture. But it was the heliolithic culture still at a very lowly stage and probably before the use of metals. It has to be noted as evidence of this canoe-borne origin of American culture, that elephant-headed figures are found in Central American drawings. American metallurgy may have arisen independently of the old-world use of metal, or it may have been brought by these elephant carvers. These American peoples got to the use of bronze and copper, but not to the use of iron; they had gold and silver; and their stonework, their pottery, weaving, and dyeing were carried to a very high level. In all these things the American product resembles the old-world product generally, but always it has characteristics that are distinctive. The American civilizations had picture-writing of a primitive

  1. Here we touch on highly controversial matters. The reader interested in the question of the separate origin of the American civilization should consult Nature, Jan. 27, 1916, Spinden and Elliot Smith in discussion.