Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/137

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124 THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA.

to consist altogether in degree, being more or less perfect in proportion to the mechanical appliances employed, or the knowledge or ignorance of letters among the sculptors. In every other respect no difference is observable. The questions which naturally follow on these facts, and which present a fertile field for operation and research, are these: Is this writing on the rocks part and parcel of a system which prevailed among the primary inhabitants of the earth prior to the invention of scroll-writing or books, and hitherto overlooked or undiscovered by antiquarians, but preserved among the wild Arabs, Red Indians, and New Hollanders, after their separation from the parent stock, in lieu of a better system, to the present day? Or is it merely the simultaneous development of that desire for an after-life so universal among men, and which, while it actuates the civilized and refined to transmit to posterity their deeds and their names by means of elaborate and beautiful histories, would impel the Arab, the American Indian, and the aboriginal of New Holland to inscribe on the rough rock his name, his initials, or his emblematic symbol to rivet the attention of future generations and "form a lasting link of ages"

"When his bones are dust, his grave a blank
His station, generation, even his nation,
Become a thing, or nothing ?"

Among the customs of the New Hollanders there is one in which, not less than in the foregoing, is to be traced a coincidence between them and the