Popular Science Monthly/Volume 38/February 1891/The Aryan Question and Prehistoric Man II

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End of series


By Prof. T. H. HUXLEY.


AT the present time, four great separate bodies of water, the Black Sea, the Caspian, the Sea of Aral, and Lake Balkash, occupy the southern end of the vast plains which extend from the Arctic Sea to the highlands of the Balkan Peninsula, of Asia Minor, of Persia, of Afghanistan, and of the high plateaus of central Asia as far as the Altai. They lie for the most part between the parallels of 40° and 50° north, and are separated by wide stretches of barren and salt-laden wastes. The surface of Balkash is five hundred and fourteen feet, that of the Aral one hundred and fifty-eight feet above the Mediterranean; that of the Caspian eighty-five feet below it. The Black Sea is in free communication with the Mediterranean by the Bosporus and the Dardanelles; but the others, in historical times, have been at most temporarily connected with it and with one another, by relatively insignificant channels. This state of things, however, is comparatively modern. At no very distant period, the land of Asia Minor was continuous with that of Europe, across the present site of the Bosporus, forming a barrier several hundred feet high, which dammed up the waters of the Black Sea. A vast extent of eastern Europe and of western central Asia thus became a huge reservoir, the lowest part of the lip of which was probably situated somewhat more than two hundred feet above the sea-level, along the present southern water-shed of the Obi, which flows into the Arctic Ocean. Into this basin the largest rivers of Europe, such as the Danube and the Volga, and what were then great rivers of Asia, the Oxus and Jaxartes, with all the intermediate affluents, poured their waters. In addition, it received the overflow of Lake Balkash, then much larger; and, probably, that of the inland Sea of Mongolia. At that time the level of the Sea of Aral stood at least sixty feet higher than it does at present.[1] Instead of the separate Black, Caspian, and Aral Seas, there was one vast Ponto-Aralian Mediterranean, which must have been prolonged into arms and fiords along the lower valleys of the Danube, the Volga (in the course of which Caspian shells are now found as far as the Kuma), the Ural, and the other affluent rivers—while it seems to have sent its overflow northward through the present basin of the Obi. At the same time, there is reason to believe that the northern coast of Asia, which everywhere shows signs of recent slow upheaval, was situated far to the south of its present position. The consequences of this state of things have an extremely important bearing on the question under discussion. In the first place, an insular climate must be substituted for the present extremely continental climate of west central Eurasia. That is an important fact in many ways. For example, the present eastern climatal limitations of the beech could not have existed, and if primitive Aryan goes back thus far, the arguments based upon the occurrence of its name in some Aryan languages and not in others lose their force. In the second place, the European and the Asiatic moieties of the great Eurasiatic plains were cut off from one another by the Ponto-Aralian Mediterranean and its prolongations. In the third place, direct access to Asia Minor, to the Caucasus, to the Persian highlands, and to Afghanistan, from the European moiety was completely barred; while the tribes of eastern central Asia were equally shut out from Persia and from India by huge mountain ranges and table-lands. Thus, if the blond long-head race existed so far back as the epoch in which the Ponto-Aralian Mediterranean had its full extension, space for its development, under the most favorable conditions, and free from any serious intrusion of foreign elements from Asia, was presented in northern and eastern Europe.

When the slow erosion of the passage of the Dardanelles drained the Ponto-Aralian waters into the Mediterranean, they must have everywhere fallen as near the level of the latter as the make of the country permitted, remaining, at first, connected by such straits as that of which the traces yet persist between the Black and the Caspian, the Caspian and the Aral Seas respectively. Then, the gradual elevation of the land of northern Siberia, bringing in its train a continental climate, with its dry air and intense summer heats, the loss by evaporation soon exceeded the greatly reduced supply of water, and Balkash, Aral, and Caspian gradually shrank to their present dimensions. In the course of this process the broad plains between the separated inland seas, as soon as they were laid bare, threw open easy routes to the Caucasus and to Turkistan, which might well be utilized by the blond long-heads moving eastward through the plains contemporaneously left dry south and east of the Ural chain. The same process of desiccation, however, would render the route from east central Asia westward as easily practicable; and, in the end, the Aryan stock might easily be cut in two, as we now find it to be, by the movement of the Mongoloid brunet broad-heads to the west.

Thus we arrive at what is practically Latham's Sarmatian hypothesis—if the term "Sarmatian" is stretched a little, so as to include the higher parts and a good deal of the northern slopes of Europe between the Ural and the German Ocean; an immense area of country, at least as large as that now included between the Black Sea, the Atlantic, the Baltic, and the Mediterranean.

If we imagine the blond long-head race to have been spread over this area, while the primitive Aryan language was in course of formation, its northwestern and its southeastern tribes will have been fifteen hundred or more miles apart. Thus, there will have been ample scope for linguistic differentiation; and, as adjacent tribes were probably influenced by the same causes, it is reasonable to suppose that, at any given region of the periphery, the process of differentiation, whether brought about by internal or external agencies, will have been analogous. Hence, it is permissible to imagine that, even before primitive Aryan had attained its full development, the course of that development had become , somewhat different in different localities; and, in this sense, it may be quite true that one uniform primitive Aryan language never existed. The nascent mode of speech may very early have got a twist, so to speak, toward Lithuanian, Slavonian, Teutonic, or Celtic in the north and west; toward Thracian and Greek in the southwest; toward Armenian in the south; toward IndoIranian in the southeast. With the centrifugal movements of the several fractions of the race, these tendencies of peripheral groups would naturally become more and more intensified in proportion to their isolation. No doubt, in the center and in other parts of the periphery of the Aryan region, other dialectic groups made their appearance; but whatever development they may have attained, these have failed to maintain themselves in the battle with the Finno-Tataric tribes, or with the stronger among their own kith and kin.[2]

Thus I think that the most plausible hypothetical answers which can be given to the two questions which we put at starting are these: There was and is an Aryan race—that is to say, the characteristic modes of speech, termed Aryan, were developed among the blond long-heads alone, however much some of them may have been modified by the importation of non-Aryan elements. As to the "home" of the Aryan race, it was in Europe, and lay chiefly east of the central highlands and west of the Ural. From this region it spread west, along the coasts of the North Sea to our islands, where, probably, it met the brunet long-heads; to France, where it found both these and the brunet short-heads; to Switzerland and south Germany, where it impinged on the brunet short-heads; to Italy, where brunet short-heads seem to have abounded in the north and long-heads in the south; and to the Balkan Peninsula, about the earliest inhabitants of which we know next to nothing. There are two ways to Asia Minor, the one over the Bosporus and the other through the passes of the Caucasus, and the Aryans may well have utilized both. Finally, the southeastern tribes probably spread themselves gradually over west Turkistan, and, after evolving the primitive Indo-Iranian dialect, eventually colonized Persia and Hindostan, where their speech developed into its final forms. On this hypothesis, the notion that the Celts and the Teutons migrated from about Pamir and the Hindoo Koosh is as far from the truth as the supposition that the Indo-Iranians migrated from Scandinavia. It supposes that the blond long-heads, in what may be called their nascent Aryan stage—that is, before their dialects had taken on the full Aryan characteristics—were spread over a wide region which is, conventionally, European; but which, from the point of view of the physical geographer, is rather to be regarded as a continuation of Asia. Moreover, it is quite possible, and even probable, that the blond long-heads may have arrived in Turkistan before their language had reached, or at any rate passed beyond, the stage of primitive Aryan; and that the whole process of differentiation into Indo-Iranian took place during the long ages of their residence in the basin of the Oxus. Thus, the question whether the seat of the primitive Aryans was in Europe, or in Asia, becomes very much a debate about geographical terminology.

The foregoing arguments in favor of Latham's "Sarmatian hypothesis" have been based upon data which lie within the ken of history, or may be surely concluded by reasoning backward from the present state of things. But, thanks to the investigation of the prehistoric archaeologists and anthropologists during the last half-century, a vast mass of positive evidence respecting the distribution and the condition of mankind in the long interval between the dawn of history and the commencement of the recent epoch has been brought to light.

During this period, there is evidence that men existed in all those regions of Europe which have yet been properly examined; and such of their bony remains as have been discovered exhibit no less diversity of stature and cranial conformation than at present. There are tall and short men; long-skulled and broad-skulled men; and it is probably safe to conclude that the present Contrast of blonds and brunets existed among them when they were in the flesh. Moreover, it has become clear that, everywhere, the oldest of these people were in the so-called neolithic stage of civilization. That is to say, they not merely used stone implements which were chipped into shape, but they also employed tools and weapons brought to an edge by grinding. At first they know little or nothing of the use of metals; they possess domestic animals and cultivated plants, and live in houses of simple construction.

In some parts of Europe little advance seems to have been made, even down to historical times. But in Britain, France, Scandinavia, Germany, western Russia, Switzerland, Austria, the plain of the Po, very probably also in the Balkan Peninsula, culture gradually advanced until a relatively high degree of civilization was attained. The initial impulse in this course of progress appears to have been given by the discovery that metal is a better material for tools and weapons than stone. In the early days of prehistoric archaeology, Mlsson showed that, in the interments of the middle age, bronze largely took the place of stone, and that only in the latest was iron substituted for bronze. Thus arose the generalization of the occurrence of a regular succession of stages of culture, which were somewhat unfortunately denominated the "ages" of stone, bronze, and iron. For a long time after this order of succession in the same locality (which, it was sometimes forgotten, has nothing to do with chronological contemporaneity in different localities) was made out, the change from stone to bronze was ascribed to foreign, and, of course, Eastern, influences. There were the ubiquitous Phœnician traders and the immigrant Aryans from the Hindoo Koosh, ready to hand. But further investigation has proved[3] for various parts of Europe and made it probable for others, that though the old order of succession is correct it is incomplete, and that a copper stage must be interpolated between the neolithic and the bronze stages. Bronze is an artificial product, the formation of which implies a knowledge of copper; and it is certain that copper was, at a very early period, smelted out of the native ores, by the people of central Europe who used it. When they learned that the hardness and toughness of their metal were immensely improved by alloying it with a small quantity of tin, they forsook copper for bronze and gradually attained a-wonderful skill in bronze-work. Finally, some of the European people became acquainted with iron, and its superior qualities drove out bronze, as bronze had driven out stone, from use in the manufacture of implements and weapons of the best class. But the process of substitution of copper and bronze for stone was gradual, and, for common purposes, stone remained in use long after the introduction of metals.

The pile-dwellings of Switzerland have yielded an unbroken archaeological record of these changes. Those of eastern Switzerland ceased to exist soon after the appearance of metals, but in those of the lakes of Neufchâtel and Bienne the history is continued through the stage of bronze to the beginning of that of iron. And in all this long series of remains, which lay bare the minutest details of the life of the pile-dwellers, from the neolithic to the perfected bronze stage, there is no indication of any disturbance such as must have been caused by foreign invasion; and such as was produced by intruders, shortly after the iron stage was reached. Undoubtedly the constructors of the pile-dwellings must have received foreign influences through the channel of trade, and may have received them by the slow immigration of other races. Their amber, their jade, and their tin show that they had commercial intercourse with somewhat distant regions. The amber, however, takes us no farther than the Baltic; and it is now known that jade is to be had within the boundaries of Europe, while tin lay no farther off than north Italy. An argument in favor of Oriental influence has been based upon the characters of certain of the cultivated plants and domesticated animals. But even that argument does not necessarily take us beyond the limits of southeastern Europe; and it needs reconsideration in view of the changes of physical geography and of climate to which I have drawn attention.

In connection with this question there is another important series of facts to be taken into consideration. When, in the seventeenth century, the Russians advanced beyond the Ural and began to occupy Siberia, they found that the majority of the natives used implements of stone and bone. Only a few possessed tools or weapons of iron, which had reached them by way of commerce; the Ostiaks and the Tatars of Tom, alone, extracted their iron from the ore. It was not until the invaders reached the Lena, in the far East, that they met with skillful smiths among the Jakuts,[4] who manufactured knives, axes, lances, battle-axes, and leather jerkins studded with iron; and among the Tunguses and Lamuts, who had learned from the Jakuts.

But there is an older chapter of Siberian history which was closed in the seventeenth century, as that of the people of the pile-dwellings of Switzerland had ended when the Romans entered Helvetia. Multitudes of sepulchral tumuli, termed, like those of European Russia, "kurgans," are scattered over the north Asiatic plains, and are especially agglomerated about the upper waters of the Jenisei. Some are modern, while others, extremely ancient, are attributed to a quasi-mythical people, the Tschudes. These Tschudish kurgans abound in copper and gold articles of use and luxury, but contain neither bronze nor iron. The Tschudes procured their copper and their gold from the metalliferous rocks of the Ural and the Altai; and their old shafts, adits, and rubbish-heaps led the Russians to the rediscovery of the forgotten stores of wealth. The race to which the Tschudes belonged and the age of the works which testify to their former existence, are alike unknown. But seeing that a rumor of them appears to have reached Herodotus, while, on the other hand, the pile-dwelling civilization of Switzerland may perhaps come down as late as the fifth century b. c., the possibility that a knowledge of the technical value of copper may have traveled from Siberia westward must not be overlooked. If the idea of turning metals to account must needs be Asiatic, it may be north Asiatic just as well as south Asiatic. In the total absence of trustworthy chronological and anthropological data, speculation may run wild.

The oldest civilizations for which we have an, even approximately, accurate chronology are those of the valleys of the Nile and of the Euphrates. Here, culture seems to have attained a degree of perfection at least as high as that of the bronze stage, six thousand years ago. But before the intermediation of Etruscan, Phœnician, and Greek traders, there is no evidence that they exerted any serious influence upon Europe or northern Asia. As to the old civilization of Mesopotamia, what is to be said until something definite is known about the racial characters of its originators, the Accadians? As matters stand, they are just as likely to have been a group of the same race as the Egyptians or the Dravidians as anything else. And, considering that their culture developed in the extreme south of the Euphrates Valley, it is difficult to imagine that its influence could have spread to northern Eurasia except by the Phœnician (and Carian?) intermediation which was undoubtedly operative in comparatively late times.

Are we then to bring down the discovery of the use of copper in Switzerland to, at earliest, 1500 b. c., and to put it down to Phœnician hints? But why copper? At that time the Phœnicians must have been familiar with the use of bronze. And if, on the other hand, the northern Eurasiatics had got as far as copper, by the help of their own ingenuity, why deny them the capacity to make the further step to bronze? Carry back the borrowing system as far as we may, in the end we must needs come to some man or men from whom the novel idea started, and who after many trials and errors gave it practical shape. And there really is no ground in the nature of things for supposing that such men of practical genius may not have turned up, independently in more races than one.

The capacity of the population of Europe for independent progress while in the copper and early bronze stage—the "palæometallic" stage, as it might be called—appears to me to be demonstrated in a remarkable manner by the remains of their architecture. From the crannog to the elaborate pile-dwelling, and from the rudest inclosure to the complex fortification of the terramare, there is an advance which is obviously a native product. So with the sepulchral constructions; the stone cist, with or without a preservative or memorial cairn, grows into the chambered graves lodged in tumuli; into such megalithic edifices as the dromic vaults of Maes How and New Grange; to culminate in the finished masonry of the tombs of Mycenæ, constructed on exactly the same plan. Can any one look at the varied series of forms which lie between the primitive five or six flat stones fitted together into a mere box, and such a building as Maes How, and yet imagine that the latter is the result of foreign tuition? But the men who built Maes How, without metal tools, could certainly have built the so-called "treasure-house" of Mycenæ with them.

If these old men of the sea, the heights of Hindoo-Koosh-Pamir and the plain of Shinar, had been less firmly seated upon the shoulders of anthropologists, I think they would long since have seen that it is at least possible that the early civilization of Europe is of indigenous growth; and that, so far as the evidence at present accumulated goes, the neolithic culture may have attained its full development, copper may have gradually come into use, and bronze may have succeeded copper, without foreign intervention.

So far as I am aware, every raw material employed in Europe up to the palæo-metallic stage is to be found within the limits of Europe; and there is no proof that the old races of domesticated animals and plants could not have been developed within these limits. If any one chose to maintain that the use of bronze in Europe originated among the inhabitants of Etruria and radiated thence along the already established lines of traffic to all parts of Europe, I do not see that his contention could be upset. It would be hard to prove either that the primitive Etruscans could not have discovered the way to manufacture bronze, or that they did not discover it and become a great mercantile people in consequence, before Phœnician commerce had reached the remote shores of the Tyrrhene Sea.

Can it be safely concluded that the palæo-metallic culture which we have been considering was the appanage of any one of the western Eurasiatic races rather than another? Did it arise and develop among the brunet or the blond long-heads or among the brunet short-heads? I do not think there are any means of answering these questions, positively, at present. Schrader has pointed out that the state of culture of the primitive Aryans, deduced from philological data, closely corresponds with that which obtained among the pile-dwellers in the neolithic stage. But the resemblance of the early stages of civilization among the most different and widely separated races of mankind should warn us that archæology is no more a sure guide in questions of race than philology.

With respect to the osteological characters of the people of the Swiss pile-dwellings information is as yet scanty. So far as the present evidence goes, they appear to have comprised both broadheads and long-heads of moderate stature.[5] In France, England, and Germany, both long and broad skulls are found in tumuli belonging to the neolithic stage. In some parts of England the long skulls, and in others the broad skulls, accompany the higher stature. In the Scandinavian Peninsula, nine tenths of the neolithic people are decided long-heads; in Denmark there is a much larger proportion of broad-heads.

In view of all the facts known to me (which can not be stated in greater detail in this place), I am disposed to think that the blond long-heads, the brunet long-heads, and the brunet broadheads have existed on the continent of Europe throughout the Recent period; that only the former two at first inhabited our islands; but that a mixed race of tall broad-heads, like some of the Black-Foresters of the present day, so excellently described by Ecker, migrated from the continent and formed that tall contingent of the population which has been identified (rightly or wrongly) with the Belgæ by Thurnam, and which seems to have subsequently lost itself among the predominant brunet and blond long-heads.

I do not think there is anything to warrant the conclusion that the palæo-metallic culture of Europe took its origin among the blond long-head (or supposed Aryan) race; or that the people of the Swiss pile-dwellings belonged to that race. The long-heads among them may just as likely have been brunets. In northeastern Italy there is clear evidence of the superposition of at least four stages of culture, in which that of the copper and bronze using terramare people comes second; a stage marked by Etruscan domination occupies the third place; and that is followed by the stage which appertains to the Gauls, with their long swords and other characteristic iron-work. In western Switzerland, on the other hand, at La Téne, and elsewhere, similar relics show that the Gauls followed upon the latest population of the pile-dwellings among whom traces of Etruscan influence (though not of dominion) are to be found. Helbig supposes the terramare people to have been Greco-Latin-speaking Pelasgi, and consequently Aryan. But we can not suppose the people of the pile-dwellings of Switzerland to have been speakers of primitive Greco-Latin (if ever there was such a language). And if the Gauls were the first speakers of Celtic who got into Switzerland, what Aryan language can the people of the pile-dwellings have spoken?[6]

As I have already mentioned, there is not the least doubt that man existed in northwestern Europe during the Pleistocene or Quaternary epoch. It is not only certain that men were contemporaries of the mammoth, the hairy rhinoceros, the reindeer, the cave bear, and other great carnivora, in England and in France, but a great deal has been ascertained about the modes of life of our predecessors. They were savage hunters, who took advantage of such natural shelters as overhanging rocks and caves, and perhaps built themselves rough wigwams; but who had no domestic animals, and have left no sign that they cultivated plants. In many localities there is evidence that a very considerable interval—the so-called hiatus—intervened between the time when the Quaternary or palæolithic men occupied particular caves and river basins and the accumulation of the débris left by their neolithic successors. And, in spite of all the warnings against negative evidence afforded by the history of geology, some have very positively asserted that this means a complete break between the Quaternary and the Recent populations—that the Quaternary population followed the retreating ice northward and left behind them a desert which remained unpeopled for ages. Other high authorities, on the contrary, maintain that the races of men who now inhabit Europe may all be traced back to the great Ice age. When a conflict of opinion of this kind obtains among reasonable and instructed men, it is generally a safe conclusion that the evidence for neither view is worth much. Certainly that is the result of my own cogitations with regard to both the hiatus doctrine (in its extreme form) and its opposite—though I think the latter by much the more likely to turn out right. But I hesitate to adopt it on the evidence which has been obtained up to this time.

No doubt, human bones and skulls of various types have been discovered in close proximity to palæolithic implements and to skeletons of Quaternary quadrupeds; no doubt, if the bones and skulls in question were not human, their contemporaneity would hardly have been questioned. But, since they are human, the demand for further evidence really need not be ascribed to mere conservative prejudice. Because the human biped differs from all other bipeds and quadrupeds, in the tendency to put his dead out of sight in various ways; commonly by burial. It is a habit worthy of all respect in itself, but generative of subtle traps and grievous pitfalls for the unwary investigator of human paleontology. For it may easily happen that the bones of him that "died o' Wednesday" may thus come to lie alongside the bones of animals that were extinct thousands of years before that Wednesday; and yet the interment may have been effected so many thousands of years ago that no outward sign betrays the difference in date. In all investigations of this kind, the most careful and critical study of the circumstances is needful if the results are to be accepted as perfectly trustworthy.

In the case of the remains found in a cave of the valley of the Neander, near Düsseldorf, half a century ago—the characters of which gave rise to a vast amount of discussion at that time and subsequently-the circumstances of the discovery were but vaguely known. The skeleton was met with in a deposit, the loess, which is known to be of Quaternary age; there was no evidence to show how it came there. Consequently, not only was its exact age justly and properly declared to be a matter of doubt; but those who, on scientific or other grounds, were inclined to minimize its importance could put forth plausible speculations about its nature which do not look so well under the light thrown by a more advanced science of anthropology. It could be and it was suggested that the Neanderthal skeleton was that of a strayed idiot; that the characters of the skull were the result of early synostosis or of late gout; and, in fact, any stick was good enough to beat the dog withal.

As some writings of mine on the subject led to my occupation of a prominent position among the belabored dogs of that day, I have taken a mild interest in watching the gradual rehabilitation of my old friend of the Neanderthal among normal men, which has been going on of late years. It has come to be generally admitted that his remarkable cranium is no more than a strongly marked example of a type which occurs, not only among other prehistoric men, but is met with, sporadically, among the moderns; and that, after all, I was not so wrong as I ought to have been, when I indicated such points of similarity among the skulls found in our river-beds and among the native races of Australia.[7] However, doubts still clung about the geological age of the various deposits in which skulls of the Neanderthal type were subsequently found; and it was not until the year 1886 that two highly competent observers, Messrs. Fraipont and Lohest, the one an anatomist, the other a geologist, furnished us with evidence such as will bear severe criticism. At the mouth of a cave in the commune of Spy, in the Belgian province of Namur, Messrs. Fraipont and Lohest discovered two skeletons of the Neanderthal type; and the elaborate account of their investigations which they have published appears to me to leave little room for doubt that the men of Spy fabricated the palæolithic implements, and were the contemporaries of the characteristic Quaternary quadrupeds, found with them. The anatomical characters of the skeletons bear out conclusions which are not flattering to the appearance of the owners. They were short of stature but powerfully built, with strong, curiously curved thigh-bones, the lower ends of which are so fashioned that they must have walked with a bend at the knees. Their long, depressed skulls had very strong brow-ridges; their lower jaws, of brutal depth and solidity, sloped away from the teeth downward and backward, in consequence of the absence of that especially characteristic feature of the higher type of man, the chin prominence. Thus these skulls are not only eminently "Neandertkaloid," but they supply the proof that the parts wanting in the original specimen harmonized in lowness of type with the rest.

After a very full discussion of the anatomical characters of these skulls, M. Fraipont says:

To sum up, we consider ourselves to be in a position to say that, having regard merely to the anatomical structure of the man of Spy, he possessed a greater number of pithecoid characters than any other race of mankind.[8]

And, after enumerating these, he continues:

The other and much more numerous characters of the skull, of the trunk, and of the limbs seem to be all human. Between the man of Spy and an existing anthropoid ape there lies an abyss.

Now, that is pleasant reading for me, because, in 1863, I committed myself to the assertion that the Neanderthal skull was "the most pithecoid of human crania yet discovered" yet that "in no sense can the Neanderthal bones be regarded as the remains of a human being intermediate between men and apes"[9] and that "the fossil remains of man hitherto discovered do not seem to me to take us appreciably nearer to that lower pithecoid form, by the modification of which he has, probably, become what he is."Ibid., p. 159.

As the evidence stood seven and twenty years ago, in fact, it would have been imprudent to assume that the Neanderthal skull was anything but a case of sporadic reversion. But, in my anxiety not to overstate my case, I understated it. The Neanderthaloid race is "appreciably nearer," though the approximation is but slight. In the words of M. Fraipont:

The distance which separates the man of Spy from the modern anthropoid ape is undoubtedly enormous; between the man of Spy and the Dryopithecus it is a little less. But we must be permitted to point out that, if the man of the later Quaternary age is the stock whence existing races have sprung, he has traveled a very great way.

From the data now obtained, it is permissible to believe that we shall be able to pursue the ancestral type of men and the anthropoid apes still further, perhaps as far as the Eocene and even beyond.[10]

These conclusions hold good, whatever the age of the men of Spy; but they possess a peculiar interest if we admit, as I think on the evidence must be admitted, that these human fossils are of Pleistocene age. For, after all due limitations, they give us some, however dim, insight into the rate of evolution of the human species, and indicate that it has not taken place at a much faster or slower pace than that of other mammalia. And, if that is so, we are warranted in the supposition that the genus homo, if not the species which the courtesy or the irony of naturalists has dubbed sapiens, was represented in Pliocene, or even in Miocene times. But I do not know by what osteological peculiarities it could be determined whether the Pliocene or Miocene man was sufficiently sapient to speak or not;[11] and whether, or not, he answered to the definition "rational animal" in any higher sense than a dog or an ape does.

There is no reason to suppose that the genus homo was confined to Europe in the Pleistocene age; it is much more probable that this, like other mammalian genera of that period, was spread over a large extent of the surface of the globe. At that time, in fact, the climate of regions nearer the equator must have been far more favorable to the human species; and it is possible that, under such conditions, it may have attained a higher development than in the north. As to where the genus homo originated, it is impossible to form even a probable guess. During the Miocene epoch, one region of the present temperate zones would serve as well as another. The elder Agassiz long ago tried to prove that the well-marked areas of geographical distribution of mammals have their special kinds of men; and, though this doctrine can not be made good to the extent which Agassiz maintained, yet the limitation of the Australian type to New Holland, the approximate restriction of the negro type to ultra-Saharal Africa, and the peculiar character of the population of Central and South America, are facts which bear strongly in favor of the conclusion that the causes which have influenced the distribution of mammals in general have powerfully affected that of man.

Let it be supposed that the human remains from the caves of the Neanderthal and of Spy represent the race, or one of the races, of men who inhabited Europe in the Quaternary epoch, can any connection be traced between it and existing races? That is to say, do any of them exhibit characters approximating those of the Spy men or other examples of the Neanderthaloid race? Put in the latter form, I think that the question may be safely answered in the affirmative. Skulls do occasionally approach the Neanderthaloid type, among both the brunet and the blond long-head races. For the former, I pointed out the resemblance, long ago, in some of the Irish river-bed skulls. For the latter, evidence of various kinds may be adduced; but I prefer to cite the authority of one of the most accomplished and cautious of living anthropologists. Prof. Virchow was led, by historical considerations, to think that the Teutonic type, if it still remained pure and undefiled anywhere, should be discoverable among the Frisians, in their ancient island home on the north German coast, remote from the great movement of nations. In their tall stature and blond complexion the Frisians fulfilled expectation, but their skulls differed in some respects from those of the neighboring blond longheads. The depression, or flattening (accompanied by a slight increase in breadth), which occurs occasionally among the latter, is regular and characteristic among the Frisians; and in other respects, the Frisian skull unmistakably approaches the Neanderthal and Spy type.[12] The fact that this resemblance exists is of none the less importance because the proper interpretation of it is not yet clear. It may be taken to be a pretty sure indication of the physiological continuity of the blond long-heads with the Pleistocene Neanderthaloid men. But this continuity may have been brought about in two ways. The blond long-heads may exhibit one of the lines of evolution of the men of the Neanderthaloid type. Or, the Frisians may be the result of the admixture of the blond long-heads with Neanderthaloid men, whose remains have been found at Canstatt and at Gibraltar, as well as at Spy and in the valley of the Neander; and who therefore seem, at one time, to have occupied a considerable area in western Europe. The same alternatives present themselves when Neanderthaloid characters appear in skulls of other races. If these characters belong to a stage in the development of the human species, antecedent to the differentiation of any of the existing races, we may expect to find them in the lowest of these races, all over the world, and in the early stages of all races. I have already referred to the remarkable similarity of the skulls of certain tribes of native Australians to the Neanderthal skull; and I may add that the wide differences in height between the skulls of different tribes of Australians afford a parallel to the differences in altitude between the skulls of the men of Spy and those of the grave-rows of north Germany. Neanderthaloid features are to be met with, not only in ancient long skulls; those of the ancient broad-headed people entombed at Borreby in Denmark have been often noted.

Reckoned by centuries, the remoteness of the Quaternary or Pleistocene age from our own is immense, and it is difficult to form an adequate notion of its duration. Undoubtedly there is an abysmal difference between the Neandert haloid race and the comely living specimens of the blond long-heads with whom we are familiar, But the abyss of time between the period at which north Europe was first covered with ice, when savages pursued mammoths and scratched their portraits with sharp stones in central France, and the present day, ever widens as we learn more about the events which bridge it. And, if the differences between the Neanderthaloid men and ourselves could be divided into as many parts as that time contains centuries, the progress from part to part would probably be almost imperceptible. Nineteenth Century.


  1. This is proved by the old shore-marks on the hill of Kashkanatao in the midst of the delta of the Oxus. Some authorities put the ancient level very much higher two hundred feet or more (Keane, Asia, p. 408).
  2. See the views of J. Schmidt (stated and discussed in Schrader and Jevons, pp. 63-67), with which those here set forth are substantially identical.
  3. "Proved" is perhaps too strong a word. But the evidence set forth by Dr. Much (Die Kupferzeit in Europa, 1886) in favor of a copper stage of culture among the inhabitants of the pile-dwellings is very weighty.
  4. Andree, Die Metalle bei den Naturvölkern (p. 114). It is interesting to note that the Jakuts have always been pastoral nomads, formerly shepherds, now horse-breeders, and that they continue to work their iron in the primitive fashion; as the argument that metallurgic skill implies settled agricultural life not unfrequently makes its appearance.
  5. Prof. Virchow has guardedly expressed the opinion that the oldest inhabitants of the Swiss pile-dwellings were broad-heads, and that later on (commencing before the bronze stage) there was a gradual infusion of long-heads among them. (Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, xvii, 1885.) There is independent evidence of the existence of broad-heads in the Cevennes during the neolithic period, and I should be disposed to think that this opinion may well be correct; but the examination of the evidence on which it is, at present, based does not lead me to feel very confident about it.
  6. See Dr. Munro's excellent work, The Lake Dwellings of Europe, for La Téne. Readers of Prof. Rhys's recent articles (Scottish Review, 1890) may suggest that the pile-dwelling people spoke the Gaedhelic form of Celtic, and the Gauls the Brythonic form.
  7. Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature, 1863, p. 155.
  8. Braipont et Lohest, La Race humaine de Neanderthal, ou de Canstatt, en Belgique. Archives de Biologie, 1886.
  9. Man's Place in Nature, pp. 156, 157.
  10. "Where, then, must we look for primeval man? Was the oldest Homo sapiens Pliocene or Miocene, or yet more ancient? In still older strata do the fossilized bones of an ape more anthropoid or a man more pithecoid than any yet known await the researches of some unborn paleontologist?" (Man's Place in Nature, p. 150.)
  11. I am perplexed by the importance attached by some to the presence or absence of the so-called "genial" elevations. Does any one suppose that the existence of the geniohyo-glossus muscle, which plays so large a part in the movements of the tongue, depends on that of these elevations?
  12. Virchow, Beiträge zur physischen Anthropologic der Deutschen (Abh. der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenscbaften zu Berlin, 1876). See particularly p. 238 for the full recognition of the Neanderthaloid characters of Frisian skulls and of the ethnological significance of the similarity.