Popular Science Monthly/Volume 16/December 1879/Recent Anthropology
IN surveying modern scientific opinion, the student is often reminded of a doctrine proclaimed in the ancient hymns of the Zend-Avesta, that of Zrvána akarana, or "endless time." Our modern schemes of astronomy, geology, biology, are all framed on the assumption of past time immense in length. In fact, one reason why the latter sciences grew so slowly till almost our own day, was their being shackled by the bonds of a short chronology, allowing no room for the long successive periods through which it is now clear that the earth with its plants and animals passed into their present state. Even the science of man, though concerned with the later forms of being, belonging to times which geologists treat as almost modern, has nevertheless to deal with periods of time extending far back beyond the range of history and chronology.
Looking back four thousand to five thousand years, what is the appearance of mankind as disclosed to us by the Egyptian monuments and inscriptions? Several of the best-marked races of man were already in existence, including the brown Egyptian himself, the dark-white Semitic man of Assyria or Palestine, the Central African of two varieties, which travelers still find as distinct as ever, namely, the black or negro proper, and the copper-colored negroid, like the Bongo or Nyam-nyam of our own time. Indeed, the evidence accessible as to ancient races of man goes to prove that the causes which brought about their differences in types of skull, hair, skin, and constitution, did their chief work in times before history began. Since then the races which had become adapted to their geographical regions may have, on the whole, undergone little change while remaining there, but some alterations are traced as due to migration into new climates. Even these are difficult to follow, masked as they are by the more striking changes produced by intermarriage of races. Now, the view that the races of man are to be accounted for as varied descendants of one original stock is zoölogically probable from the close resemblance of all men in body and mind, and the freedom with which races intercross. If it was so, then the fact of the different races already existing early in the historical period compels the naturalist to look to a prehistoric period for their development to have taken place in. And, considering how strongly differenced are the negro and the Syrian, and how slowly such changes of complexion and feature take place within historical experience, this prehistoric period was probably of vast length. The evidence from the languages of the world points in the same direction. In times of ancient history we already meet with families of languages, such as the Aryan and the Semitic, and as later history goes on many other families of language come into view, such as the Bantu or Caffre of Africa, the Dravidian of South India, the Malayo-Polynesian, the Algonquin of North America, and other families. But what we do not find is the parent language of any of these families, the original language which all the other members are dialects of, so that this parent tongue should stand toward the rest in the relation which Latin holds to its descendants, Italian and French. It is, however, possible to work back by the method of philological comparison, so as to sketch the outlines of that early Aryan tongue which must have existed to produce Sanskrit and Persian, Greek and Latin, German, Russian, and Welsh, or the outlines of that early Semitic tongue which must have existed to produce Assyrian, Phœnician, Hebrew, and Arabic. Though such theoretical reconstructions of parent language from their descendants may only show a vague and shadowy likeness to the reality, they give some idea of it. And what concerns us here is that theoretical early Aryan and Semitic, or other such reconstructed languages, do not bring our minds appreciably nearer to really primitive forms of speech. However far we get back, the signs of development from still earlier stages are there. The roots have mostly settled into forms which no longer show the reasons why they were originally chosen, while the inflections only in part preserve traces of their original senses, and the whole structure is such as only a long lost past can account for. To illustrate this important point, let us remember the system of grammatical gender in Greek or Gennan, how irrationally a classification by sex is applied to sexless objects and thoughts, while even the use of a neuter gender fails to set the confusion straight, and sometimes even twists it with a new perversity o| its own. Many a German and Frenchman wishes he could follow the example of our English forefathers who, long ago, threw overboard the whole worthless cargo of grammatical gender. But, looking at gender in the ancient grammars, it must be remembered that human custom is hardly ever willfully absurd, its unreasonableness usually arising from loss or confusion of old sense. Thus it can hardly be doubted that the misused grammatical gender in Hebrew or Greek is the remains of an older and reasonable phenomenon of language; but, if so, this must have belonged to a period earlier than we can assign to the theoretical parent language of either. Lastly, the development of civilization requires a long period of prehistoric time. Experience and history show that civilization grew up gradually, while every age preserves recognizable traces of the ages which went before. The woodman's axe of to-day still retains much of the form of its ancestor—the stone celt in its wooden handle; the mathematician's tables keep up in their decimal rotation a record of the early ages when man's ten fingers first taught him to count; the very letters with which I wrote these lines may be followed back to the figure of birds and beasts and other objects drawn by the ancient Egyptians, at first as mere picture-writing, to denote the things represented. Yet, when we learn from the monuments what ancient Egyptian life was like toward five thousand years ago, it appears that civilization had already come on so far that there was an elaborate system of government, an educated literary priesthood, a nation skilled in agriculture, architecture, and metal-work. These ancient Egyptians, far from being near the beginning of civilization, had, as the late Baron Bunsen held, already reached its halfway house. This eminent Egyptologist's moderate estimate of man's age on the earth at about twenty thousand years has the merit of having been made on historical grounds alone, independently of geological evidence, for the proofs of the existence of man in the Quaternary or mammoth period had not yet gained acceptance.
My purpose in briefly stating here the evidence of man's antiquity derived from race, language, and culture, is to insist that these arguments stand on their own ground. It is true that the geological argument from the implements in the drift-gravels and bone-caves, by leading to a general belief that man is extremely ancient on the earth, has now made it easier to anthropologists to maintain a rationally satisfactory theory of the race-types and mental development of mankind. But we should by no means give up this vantage-ground, though the ladder we climbed by should break down. Even if it could be proved that the flint implements of Abbeville or Torquay were really not so ancient as the pyramids of Egypt, this would not prevent us from still assuming, for other and sufficient reasons, a period of human life on earth extending many thousand years further back.
It is an advantage of this state of the evidence that it to some extent gets rid of the "sensational" element in the problem of fossil man, which it leaves as merely an interesting inquiry into the earliest known relics of savage tribes. Geological criticism has not yet absolutely settled either way the claims of the Abbé Bourgeois's flints from Thénay to be of miocene date, or of Mr. Skertchly's from Brandon to be glacial. The accepted point is, that the men who made the ordinary flint implements of the drift lived in the Quaternary period characterized by the presence of the mammoth in our part of Europe. More than one geologist, however, has lately maintained that this Quaternary period was not of extreme antiquity. The problem is, at what distance from the present time the drift-gravels on the valley slopes can have been deposited by water-action up to one hundred feet or so above the present flood-levels? It does not seem the prevailing view among geologists that rivers on the same small scale as those at present occupying mere ditches in the wide valley-floors could have left these deposits on the hillsides at a time when they had not yet scooped out the valleys to within fifty or a hundred feet of their present depth. Indeed, such means are insufficient out of all proportion to the results, as a mere look down from the hill-tops into such valleys is enough to show. Geologists connect the deposit of the high drift-gravels with the subsidence and elevation of the land, and the powerful action of ice and water at the close of the Glacial age; and the term "Pluvial period" is often used to characterize this time of heavy rainfall and huge rivers. It was then that the rude stone implements of palæolithic man were imbedded in the drift-gravels with the remains of the mammoth and fossil rhinoceros, and we have to ask what events have taken place in these regions since? The earth's surface has been altered to bring the land and water to their present levels, the huge animals became extinct, the country was inhabited by the tribes whose relics belong to the neolithic or polished-stone age, and afterward the metal-using Keltic nations possessed the land, their arrival being fixed as previous to 400 b. c., the king of the Gauls then being called by the Romans by the name Brennus, which is simply the Keltic word for "king"—in modern Welsh brenin. To take in this succession of events geologists and archæologists generally hold that a long period is required. Yet there are some few who find room for them all in a comparatively short period. I will mention Principal Dawson, of Montreal, well known as a geologist in this Association, and who has shown his conviction of the soundness of his views by addressing them to the general public in a little volume, entitled "The Story of the Earth and Man." Having examined the gravels of St. Acheul, on the Somme, where M. Boucher de Perthes found his celebrated drift implements, it appeared to Dr. Dawson that, taking into account the probabilities of a different level of the land, a wooded condition of the country, and greater rainfall, and a glacial filling up of the Somme Valley with clay and stones subsequently cut out by running water, the gravels could scarcely be older than the Abbeville peat, and the age of this peat he estimates as perhaps less than four thousand years. Within this period Dr. Dawson includes a comparatively rapid subsidence of the land, with a partial reëlevation, which left large areas of the lower grounds beneath the sea. This he describes as the geological deluge which separates the post-glacial period from the modern, and the earlier from the later prehistoric period of the archæologists.
My reason for going here into these computations of Dr. Dawson's is, that the date about 2200 b. c. to which he thus assigns these great geological convulsions, is actually within historic times. In Egypt successive dynasties had been reigning for ages, and the pyramids had long been built; while in Babylonia the old Chaldean kings had been raising the temples whose ruins still remain. That is to say, we are asked to receive, as matter of geology, that stupendous geological changes were going on not far from the Mediterranean, including a final plunge of I know not how much of the earth's surface beneath the waters, and yet national life on the banks of the Nile and the Euphrates went on unbroken and apparently undisturbed through it all. To us in this section it is instructive to see how the free use of paroxysms and cataclysms makes it possible to shorten up geological time. Accustomed as we are to geology demanding periods of time which often seem to history exorbitant, the tables are now turned, and we are presented with the unusual spectacle of Chronology protesting against Geology for encroaching on the historical period.
In connection with the question of quaternary man, it is worth while to notice that the use of the terms "primeval" or "primitive" man, with reference to the savages of the mammoth period, seems sometimes to lead to unsound inferences. There appears no particular reason to think that the relics from the drift-beds or bone-caves represent man as he first appeared on the earth. The contents of the caves especially bear witness to a state of savage art, in some respects fairly high, and which may possibly have somewhat fallen off from an ancestral state in a more favorable climate. Indeed, the savage condition generally, though rude and more or less representing early stages of culture, never looks absolutely primitive, just as no savage language ever has the appearance of being a primitive language. What the appearance and state of our really primeval ancestors may have been seems too speculative a question, until there shall be more signs of agreement between the anthropologists, who work back by comparison of actual races of man toward an hypothetical common stock, and the zoologists, who approach the problem through the species adjoining the human. There is, however, a point relating to the problem to which attention is due. Naturalists not unreasonably claim to find the geographical center of man in the tropical regions of the Old World inhabited by his nearest zoölogical allies, the anthropomorphous apes, and there is at any rate force enough in such a view to make careful quest of human remains' worth while in those districts, from Africa across to the Eastern Archipelago. Under the care of Mr. John Evans a fund has been raised for excavations in the caves of Borneo by Mr. Everett, and, though the search has as yet had no striking result, money is well spent in carrying on such investigations in likely equatorial forest regions.
It would be a pity that for want of enterprise a chance, however slight, should be missed of settling a question so vital to anthropology.
While the problem of primitive man thus remains obscure, a somewhat more distinct opinion may be formed on the problem of primitive civilized man. When it is asked what races of mankind first attained to civilization, it may be answered that the earliest nations known to have had the art of writing, the great mark of civilization as distinguished from barbarism, were the Egyptians and Babylonians, who in the remotest ages of history appear as nations advanced to the civilized stage in arts and social organization. The question is, under what races to class them? What the ancient Egyptians were like is well known from the monuments, which show how closely much of the present fellah population, as little changed in features as in climate and life, represent their ancestors of the times of the Pharaohs. Their reddish-brown skin, and features tending toward the negroid, have led Hartmann, the latest anthropologist who has carefully studied them, to adopt the classification of them as belonging to the African rather than the Asiatic peoples, and especially to insist on their connection with the Berber type, a view which seems to have been held by Blumenbach. The contrast of the brown Egyptians with the dark-white Syro-Arabians on their frontiers is strongly marked, and the portraits on the monuments show how distinctly the Egyptian knew himself to be of different race from the Semite. Yet there was mixture between the two races, and, what is most remarkable, there is a deep-seated Semitic element in the Egyptian language, only to be accounted for by some extremely ancient and intimate connection. On the whole, the Egyptians may be a mixed race, mainly of African origin, perhaps from the southern Somauli-land, whence the Egyptian tradition was that the gods came, while their African type may have since been modified by Asiatic admixture. Next, as to the early relations of Babylonia and Media, a different problem presents itself. The languages of these nations, the so-called Akkadian and the early Medic, were certainly not of the same family with either the Assyrian or the Persian which afterward prevailed in their districts. Their connection with the Tartar or Turanian family of languages, asserted twenty years ago by Oppert, has since been further maintained by Lenormant and Sayce, and seems, if not conclusively settled, at any rate to have much evidence for it, not depending merely on similarity of words, such as the term for "god," Akkadian dingira, being like the Tartar tengri, but also on the similarity of pronouns and grammatical structure by post-positions. Now language, though not a conclusive argument as to race, always proves more or less as to connection. The comparison of the Akkadian language to that of the Tartar family is at any rate prima facie evidence that the nations who founded the ancient civilization of Babylonia, who invented the cuneiform writing, and who carried on the astronomical observations which made the name of Chaldean famous for all time, may have been not dark-white peoples like the Assyrians who came after them, but perhaps belonged to the yellow race of Central Asia, of whom the Chinese are the branch now most distinguished in civilization. M. Lenormant has tried to identify among the Assyrian bas-reliefs certain figures of men whose round skulls, high cheek-bones, and low-bridged noses present a Mongoloid type contrasting with that of the Assyrians. We can not, I think, take this as proved, but at any rate in these figures the features are not those of the aquiline Semitic type. The bronze statuette of the Chaldean king called Gudea, which I have examined with Mr. Pinches at the British Museum, is also, with its straight nose and long, thin beard, as un-Assyrian as may be. The anthropological point toward which all this tends is one of great interest. We of the white race are so used to the position of leaders in civilization, that it does not come easy to us to think we may not have been its original founders. Yet the white race, whether the dark-whites, such as Phœnicians or Hebrews, Greeks or Romans, or the fair-whites, such as Scandinavians and Teutons, appear in history as followers and disciples of the Egyptians and Babylonians who taught the world writing, mathematics, philosophy. These Egyptians and Babylonians, so far as present evidence reaches, seem rather to have belonged to the races of brown and yellow skin than to the white race.
It may be objected that this reasoning is in several places imperfect, but it is the use of a departmental address not only to lay down proved doctrines, but to state problems tentatively as they lie open to further inquiry. This will justify my calling attention to a line of argument which, uncertain as it at present is, may perhaps lead to an interesting result. So ancient was civilization among both Egyptians and Chaldeans, that the contest as to their priority in such matters as magical science was going on hotly in the classic ages of Greece and Rome. Looking at the literature and science, the arts and politics of Memphis and of Ur of the Chaldees, both raised to such height of culture nearly five thousand years ago, we ask. Were these civilizations not connected? did not one borrow from the other? There is at present a clew which, though it may lead to nothing, is still worth trial. The hint of it lies in a remark by Dr. Birch as to one of the earliest of Egyptian monuments, the pyramid of Kochome, near Sakkara, actually dating from the first dynasty, no doubt beyond 3000 b. c. and which is built in steps like the seven-storied Babylonian temples. Two other Egyptian pyramids, those of Abu-sīr, are also built in steps. Now, whether there is any connection between the building of these pyramids and the Babylonian towers, does not depend on their being built in stages, but on the number of these stages being seven. As to the Babylonian towers, there is no doubt, for, though Birs-Nimrud is now a ruinous heap, the classical descriptions of such temples, and the cuneiform inscriptions, put it beyond question that they had seven stages, dedicated to the seven planets. As to the Egyptian pyramids, the archæologists Segato and Masi positively state of one step-pyramid of Abur-sīr, that it had seven decreasing stages, while, on the' other hand, Vyse's reconstruction of the step-pyramid of Sakkara shows there only six. Considering the ruinous state of all three step-pyramids, it will require careful measurement to settle whether they originally had seven stages or not. If they had, the correspondence can not be set down to accident, but must be taken to prove a connection between Chaldea and Egypt as to the worship of the seven planets, which will be among the most ancient links connecting the civilizations of the world. I hope, by thus calling attention to the question, to induce some competent architect visiting Egypt to place the matter beyond doubt, one way or the other.
While speaking of the high antiquity of civilization in Egypt, the fact calls for remark that the use of iron as well as bronze in that country seems to go back as far as historical record reaches. Brugsch writes in his "Egypt under the Pharaohs," that Egypt throws scorn on the archæologists' assumed successive periods of stone, bronze, and iron. The eminent historian neglects, however, to mention facts which give a different complexion to the early Egyptian use of metals, namely, that chipped flints, apparently belonging to a prehistoric Stone age, are picked up plentifully in Egypt, while the sharp stones or stone knives used by the embalmers seem also to indicate an earlier time when these were the cutting instruments in ordinary use. Thus there are signs that the Metal age in Egypt, as elsewhere in the world, was preceded by a Stone age, and, if so, the high antiquity of the use of metal only throws back to a still higher antiquity the use of stone. The ancient iron-working in Egypt is, however, the chief of a group of facts which are now affecting the opinions of anthropologists on the question whether the Bronze age everywhere preceded the Iron age. In regions where, as in Africa, iron-ore occurs in such a state that it can, after mere heating in the fire, be forged into implements, the invention of iron-working would be more readily made than that of the composite metal bronze, which perhaps indicates a previous use of copper, afterward improved on by an alloy of tin. Professor Rolleston, in a recent address on the Iron, Bronze, and Stone ages, insists with reason that soft iron may have been first in the hands of many tribes, and may have been superseded by bronze as a preferable material for tools and weapons. We moderns, used to fine and cheap steel, hardly do justice to the excellence of bronze, or gun-metal as we should now call it, in comparison with any material but steel. I well remember my own surprise at seeing in the Naples Museum that the surgeons of Herculaneum and Pompeii used instruments of bronze. It is when hard steel comes in, that weapons both of bronze and wrought iron have to yield, as when the long, soft iron broadswords of the Gauls bent at the first blow against the pikes of Flaminius's soldiers. On the whole, Professor Virchow's remarks in the "Transactions of the Berlin Anthropological Society for 1876," on the question whether it may be desirable to recognize instead of three only two ages, a Stone age and a Metal age, seem to put the matter on a fair footing. Iron may have been known as early as bronze or even earlier, but nevertheless there have been periods in the life of nations when bronze, not iron, has been the metal in use. Thus there is nothing to interfere with the facts resting on archæological evidence, that in such districts as Scandinavia or Switzerland a Stone age was at some ancient time followed by a Bronze age, and this again by an Iron age. We may notice that the latter change is what has happened in America within a few centuries, where the Mexicans and Peruvians, found by the Spaniards living in the Bronze age, were moved on into the Iron age. But the question is whether we are to accept as a general principle in history the doctrine expounded in the poem of Lucretius, that men first used boughs and stones, that then the use of bronze became known, and lastly iron was discovered. As the evidence stands now, the priority of the Stone age to the Metal age is more firmly established than ever, but the origin of both bronze and iron is lost in antiquity, and we have no certain proof which came first.
Passing to another topic of our science, it is satisfactory to see with what activity the comparative study of laws and customs, to which Sir Henry Maine gave a new starting-point in England, is now pursued. The remarkable inquiry into the very foundations of society in the structure of the family, set afoot by Bachofen in his "Mütterrecht," and McLennan in his "Primitive Marriage," is now bringing in every year new material. Mr. L. H. Morgan, who, as an adopted Iroquois, became long ago familiar with the marriage laws and ideas of kinship of uncultured races, so unlike those of the civilized world, has lately made, in his "Ancient Society," a bold attempt to solve the whole difficult problem of the development of social life. I will not attempt here any criticism of the views of these and other writers on a problem where the last word has certainly not been said. My object in touching the subject is to mention the curious evidence that can still be given by rude races as to their former social ties, in traditions which will be forgotten in another generation of civilized life, but may still be traced by missionaries and others who know what to seek for. Thus, such inquiry in Polynesia discloses remarkable traces of a prevalent marriage-tie which was at once polygamous and polyandrous, as where a family of brothers were married jointly to a family of sisters; and I have just noticed in a recent volume on "Native Tribes of South Australia," a mention of a similar state of things occurring there. As to the general study of customs, the work done for years past by such anthropologists as Professor Bastian, of Berlin, is producing substantial progress. Among recent works I will mention Dr. Karl Andree's "Ethnologische Parallelen," and Mr. J. A. Farrer's "Primitive Manners." In the comparison of customs and inventions, however, the main difficulty still remains to be overcome, how to decide certainly whether they have sprung up independently alike in different lands through likeness in the human mind, or whether they have traveled from a common source. To show how difficult this often is,. I may mention the latest case I have happened to meet with. The Orang Dongo, a mountain people in the Malay region, have a custom of inheritance that when a man dies the relatives each take a share of the property, and the deceased inherits one share for himself, which is burned or buried for his ghost's use, or eaten at the funeral feast. This may strike many of my hearers as quaint enough, and unlikely to recur elsewhere; but Mr. Charles Elton, who has special knowledge of our ancient legal customs, has pointed out to me that it was actually old Kentish law, thus laid down in law-French: "Ensement seient les chateus de gauylekendeys parties en treis apres le exequies e les dettes rendues si il y est issue mulier en vye, issi que la mort eyt la une partie, e les fitz e les filles muliers lautre partie e la femme la tierce partie."—("In like sort let the chattels of gavelkind persons be divided into three after the funeral and payment of debts, if there be lawful issue living, so that the deceased have one part, and the lawful sons and daughters the other part, and the wife the third part.") The Church had indeed taken possession, for pious uses, of the dead man's share of his own property; but there is good Scandinavian evidence that the original custom before Christian times was for it to be put in his burial-mound. Thus the right of the rude Malay tribe corresponds with that of ancient Europe, and the question which the evidence does not yet enable us to answer, is whether the custom was twice invented, or whether it spread east and west from a common source, perhaps in the Aryan district of Asia.
It remains for me to notice the present state of comparative mythology, a most interesting but also most provoking part of anthropology. More than twenty years ago a famous essay, by Professor Max Müller, made widely known in England how far the myths in the classical dictionary and the story-books of our own lands might find their explanation in poetic nature-metaphors of sun and sky, cloud and storm, such as are preserved in the ancient Aryan hymns of the Veda. Of course it had been always known that the old gods and heroes were in some part personifications of nature—that Helios and Okeanos, though they walked and talked and begat sons and daughters, were only the Sun and Sea in poetic guise. But the identifications of the new school went further. The myth of Endymion became the simple nature-story of the setting Sun meeting Selene the Moon; and I well remember how, at the Royal Institution, the aged scholar. Bishop Thirlwall, grasped the stick he leaned on, as if to make sure of the ground under his feet, when he heard it propounded that Erinys, the dread avenger of murder, was a personification of the Dawn discovering the deeds of Darkness. Though the study of mythology has grown apace in these later years, and many of its explanations will stand the test of future criticism, I am bound to say that mythologists, always an erratic race, have of late been making wilder work than ever with both myth and real history—finding mythic suns and skies in the kings and heroes of old tradition, with dawns for love-tales, storms for wars, and sunsets for deaths, often with as much real cogency as if some mythologist a thousand years hence should explain the tragic story of Mary Queen of Scots as a nature-myth of a beauteous dawn rising in splendor, prisoned in a dark cloud-island, and done to death in blood-red sunset. Learned treatises have of late, by such rash guessings, shaken public confidence in the more sober reasonings on which comparative mythology is founded, so that it is well to insist that there are cases where the derivation of myths from poetic metaphors is really proved beyond doubt. Such an instance is the Hindoo legend of King Bali, whose austerities have alarmed the gods themselves, when Vamana, a Brahmanic Tom Thumb, begs of him as much land as he can measure in three steps; but when the boon is granted, the tiny dwarf expands gigantic into Vishnu himself, and striding with one step across the earth, with another across the air, and a third across the sky, drives the king down into the infernal regions, where he still reigns. There are various versions of the story, of which one may be read in Southey; but in the ancient Vedic hymns its origin may be found when it was not as yet a story at all, only a poetic metaphor of Vishnu, the Sun, whose oft-mentioned act is his crossing the airy regions in his three strides. "Vishnu traversed (the earth), thrice he put down his foot; it was crushed under his dusty step. Three steps hence made Vishnu, unharmed preserver, upholding sacred things." Both in the savage and civilized world there are many myths which may be plainly traced to such poetic fancies before they have yet stiffened into circumstantial tales; and it is in following out these, rather than in recklessly guessing myth-origins for every tradition, that the sound work of the mythologist lies. The scholar must not treat such nature-poetry like prose, spoiling its light texture with too heavy a grasp. In the volume published by our new Folk-Lore Society, which has begun its work so well, Mr. Lang gives an instance of the sportive nature-metaphor which still lingers among popular storytellers. It is Breton, and belongs to that wide-spread tale of which one version is naturalized in England as "Dick Whittington and his Cat." The story runs thus: The elder brother has the cat, while the next brother, who has a cock left him, fortunately finds his way to a land where (there being no cocks) the king has every night to send chariots and horses to bring the dawn; so that here the fortunate owner of Chanticleer has brought him to a good market. Thus we see that the Breton peasant of our day has not even yet lost the mythic sense with which his remote Aryan ancestors could behold the chariots and horses of the dawn. But myth, though largely based on such half-playful metaphor, runs through all the intermediate stages which separate poetic fancy from crude philosophy embodied in stories seriously devised as explanations of real facts. No doubt many legends of the ancient world, though not really history, are myths which have arisen by reasoning on actual events, as definite as that which, some four years ago, was terrifying the peasant-mind in North Germany, and especially in Posen. The report had spread far and wide that all Catholic children with black hair and blue eyes were to be sent out of the country, some said to Russia, while others declared that it was the King of Prussia who had been playing cards with the Sultan of Turkey, and had staked and lost forty thousand fair-haired, blue-eyed children; and there were Moors traveling about in covered carts to collect them; and the schoolmasters were helping, for they were to have five dollars for every child they handed over. For a time the popular excitement was quite serious: the parents kept the children away from school and hid them, and when they appeared in the streets of the market-town the little ones clung to them with terrified looks. Dr. Schwartze, the well-known mythologist, took the pains to trace the rumor to its sources. One thing was quite plain, that its prime cause was that grave and learned body, the Anthropological Society of Berlin, who, without a thought of the commotion they were stirring up, had, in order to class the population as to race, induced the authorities to have a census made throughout the local schools, to ascertain the color of the children's skin, hair, and eyes. Had it been only the boys, to the Government inspection of whom for military conscription the German peasants are only too well accustomed, nothing would have been thought of it; but why should the officials want to know about the little girls' hair and eyes? The whole group of stories which suddenly sprang up were myths created to answer this question; and even the details which became embodied with them could all be traced to their sources, such as the memories of German princes selling regiments of their people to pay their debts, the late political negotiations between Germany and Russia, etc. The fact that a caravan of Moors had been traveling about as a show accounted for the covered carts with which they were to fetch the children; while the schoolmasters were naturally implicated, as having drawn up the census. One schoolmaster, who evidently knew his people, assured the terrified parents that it was only the children with blue hair and green eyes that were wanted—an explanation which sent them home quite comforted. After all, there is no reason why we should not come in time to a thorough understanding of mythology. The human mind is much what it used to be, and the principles of myth-making may still be learned from the peasants of Europe.
When, within the memory of some here present, the science of man was just coming into notice, it seemed as though the study of races, customs, traditions, were a limited though interesting task, which might, after a few years, come so near the end of its materials as no longer to have much new to offer. Its real course has been far otherwise. Twenty years ago it was no difficult task to follow it step by step; but now even the yearly list of new anthropological literature is enough to form a pamphlet, and each capital of Europe has its anthropological society in full work. So far from any look of finality in anthropological investigations, each new line of argument but opens the way to others behind, while these lines tend as plainly as in the sciences of stricter weight and measure toward the meeting-ground of all sciences in the unity of nature.—Nature.
- Address before the Anthropological Section of the British Association, at Sheffield.