Popular Science Monthly/Volume 41/June 1892/The Ancient Civilizations of America
|THE ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS OF AMERICA.|
By Prof. JOHN S. NEWBERRY.
WHEN the white man landed on these shores he found them covered with a dense forest, the home of the bear, the elk, the lynx, and the other wild animals indigenous to this country. The only human inhabitants were the red Indians, who roved the forest, "the children of the shade"—the chase their occupation, and their amusement war. From Maine to Florida the country was overrun by various tribes of these untutored savages, and for many years it was believed that the whole of North America was what it was called—the New World—and that its animals and savage men were part of the first wild stock with which it was peopled.
As the wave of civilization moved westward the forest was mowed down before it, and step by step the native tribes—with many a hard-fought battle and bloody tragedy—were driven deeper into their forest recesses.
Behind the advance guard of the whites the country was soon dotted with hamlets, which grew to towns, and these in time to cities. The intervals between them were covered with grain-fields and orchards, of which the growth was so luxuriant that it seemed to prove the soil to be now for the first time opened to the sunlight. Thus several generations passed; but in time the invading hosts pressed through the great natural water-gap, which once connected the Hudson with the lakes, or crossed the Alleghanies from Pennsylvania and Virginia, and took possession of the basin of the Ohio. Here they entered their promised land—the valley of the Mississippi—a region which by its broad topographical unity, its universal fertility, its network of navigable waters, and its unequaled mineral resources, is without a rival on the earth's surface in its fitness to become the home of a great nation. Here, too, the wandering and stealthy savage was in full possession, and resisted the invasion of his hunting-grounds with his characteristic ferocity.
Ultimately, however, he was compelled to yield to the superior numbers and intelligence of the whites, and, within fifty years from the first struggle on the "dark and bloody ground" of Kentucky, he had practically abandoned all the territory east of the Mississippi.
When the forests were opened in this region, it was for the first time discovered that the nomadic Indian was not autochthonous, and that he had been preceded by a sedentary and partially civilized people, who had cultivated the soil, worked the mines, and left behind them a vast series of monuments which extended from the Alleghanies to the prairies, from the Lakes to the Gulf. These monuments consisted of mounds, walls, fortifications, and other structures composed of earth or rough stone, and among them the mounds (chiefly sepulchral) were so conspicuous from their numbers and size that the people by whom they were constructed—and whose name and history had been utterly lost—for want of other designation were called the Mound-builders.
The records of this ancient people, with the lessons they teach in regard to their degree and kind of culture and their ethnical relations, will be referred to again. Meantime we will pass to notice a still more extensive and interesting series of monuments which attest the ancient occupation of America by civilized man.
Long before the Northern whites had entered the valley of the Mississippi, and had discovered the first traces of the moundbuilders, the Spaniards who invaded Mexico and Peru found there a civilization in many respects superior to their own—a civilization which extended throughout Mexico, the Isthmus, and the west coast of South America to the frontiers of Chili; that had produced cities that rivaled in extent and in the magnificence of their buildings those of the Old World—cities that were lighted at night, guarded by police, that contained palaces, temples, courts of justice, schools of law, medicine, music, and literature, with parks, aqueducts, fountains, and artificial lakes.
The cities were connected by graded roads, on which were stations and relays of messengers for the rapid transmission of intelligence. The population was divided into various castes, including royalty, nobility, different grades of traders and artisans, and finally slaves. The country was cultivated with much agricultural skill, and in the towns were workers in gold, silver, copper, and bronze. Their military organization was thorough and effective, and strategic points were guarded by fortifications, some of which have had no rivals in magnitude in the history of the world.
This civilization, imposing as it was, at the advent of the Spaniards had passed its golden age, was then in its decadence, and has since, chiefly by the brute force, cruelty, and rapacity of the European invaders, been nearly driven from the earth.
So much has been written of these two American civilizations—that of the mound-builders of the Mississippi Valley, and that of the palace-builders of Central America–and their study has been pursued with so much interest and success, that it may seem presumptuous that I should venture to occupy the hour kindly granted me with a theme so broad and already so familiar. But it has happened to me to traverse much of the territory in Central America, Mexico, and the United States where the relics of these bygone races are most abundant, and as the subject has always been one of intense interest to me I have lost no opportunity of gathering by my own observation such information as came within my reach; hence, it is possible that I may be able to contribute something to what you may have learned of our predecessors in the occupation of this continent, and of the real and original American citizen.
The Mound-builders.—As has already been mentioned, traces of a people more advanced in the arts than the nomadic Indian are spread over the entire valley of the Mississippi and the Lake basin. These have been so fully described that you are familiar with their general character, but few of us have a just idea of their number and magnitude.
It is estimated (but I fear with little accuracy) that not less than ten thousand monuments of the mound-builders are contained within the limits of Ohio, and they are scarcely less numerous in the adjacent States of Indiana and Kentucky. In some places, as at Newark and Circleville, they cover square miles of surface, and it is hardly to be doubted that they are the work of a people or peoples not less numerous than the present population.
They are most abundant where the agricultural capabilities of the country are greatest, and we find them associated with areas of special fertility in such a way as to prove that they had stripped the forest from these areas, and chiefly derived their subsistence from their cultivation. Hence we learn that they were a sedentary and agricultural people. Yet their structures are for the most part earthworks—walls for defense, or to form inclosures, sepulchral mounds, etc.; and while we find what seem to be raised foundations of extensive buildings, those buildings have disappeared, and we must hence conclude that they were for the most part structures of wood.
The mound-builders were ignorant of the use of iron, and probably possessed no other metals than copper, which they mined extensively, but never smelted; for we find their implements composed of the native metal, often with specks of silver, thus betraying its source on Lake Superior, and only hammered into shape. From this copper they made battle-axes, daggers, knives, awls, and ornaments; but most of their tools and weapons were of stone, and many of them were laboriously and tastefully wrought.
They have left no evidence that they had a knowledge of masonry—an art in which the inhabitants of the table-lands so much excelled.
This is the more remarkable, as stone easily quarried abounds in the vicinity of their works, and some of the great structures of our Western table-lands, whose builders apparently had not the use of metals, show what good work could be done without metallic tools.
I have said that the mound-builders made use of but a single metal—copper—and yet they were industrious and enterprising miners. Their copper mines on Lake Superior have been often and fully described. They must have been worked for generations, since the ancient excavations exceed in magnitude all the work of the white man in that region; but the methods which they used were exceedingly rude and simple.
They had no knowledge of metallurgy, and the Lake Superior copper was only available for their purpose because it occurs in the metallic state. They excavated the rock by the use of fire, stone hammers, and wooden shovels.
They never penetrated the earth to a greater depth than sixty to eighty feet, and for ladders they used the trunks of trees from which the branches projected at frequent intervals, and these were cut off to form steps. Since no considerable structures belonging to this people have been found near the Lake Superior mines, it seems probable that their mining operations were carried on only in summer, and by parties who, migrating from the lower country in the spring, returned in autumn.
Although the copper mines of the mound-builders were their most important ones, they had others by which they procured things that were of no less value to them. Of the coal, which constitutes the mainspring of modern civilization, and of iron, its most important adjunct, though existing in unequaled abundance in the country they inhabited, and trodden under foot in their daily vocations, they seem to have been utterly and strangely ignorant. Yet they worked with much labor the mines of mica in North Carolina, from which they procured what was by them highly prized as an ornament; the soap-stone quarries of the Alleghany range, where they obtained material for their domestic utensils and the all-important ceremonial pipe; and those of flint in Ohio and elsewhere, from which came the material out of which the greater number of their tools and weapons were fashioned.
In addition to these, I can assert from my own observation that they worked at least one lead mine in Kentucky, and sank wells from which they obtained petroleum in all our principal oil regions.
As these facts have not been reported by others, and yet are unquestionable, I venture to emphasize them with a few words of description.
Near Lexington, Ky., is a vein of lead ore which is traceable for half a mile or more through cultivated and forest land. The ore is galena in heavy spar, which has resisted the solvent carbonic-acid water that has removed the limestone wall rocks and shows conspicuously at the surface. Thus it attracted the attention of the mound-builders, who seem to have prized the galena only for its brilliancy, as we find it in many of the mounds, but so far we lack evidence that it was smelted. To obtain it in the mine to which I have referred, they made a deep trench along the course of the vein, taking out the ore to the depth of perhaps ten or twenty feet. One hundred yards or more of this trench is now visible, running through forest which has never been disturbed by the whites. Here it is five or six feet deep, and is bordered on either side by ridges of the material thrown out. On these, trees are growing which have reached their maximum dimensions, showing that at least five hundred years have elapsed since the mine was abandoned.
The working of the oil wells by the mound-builders is as plainly proved. When drawn to Titusville by the first successful oil wells, I was struck by the peculiar pitted surface of the soil of the forest which covered the bottom lands of Oil Creek. The pits were ten feet or more in diameter, and two to three feet deep, contiguous, and innumerable. Subsequently I discovered that each of these funnel-shaped depressions marked the site of an ancient well, sunk through the alluvial deposits, but not into the rock. One of these, just opened in an excavation for a new oil well, showed a pit twenty-seven feet deep, cribbed up with timber, and containing a rude ladder like those found in the Lake Superior copper mines. The timber used for the inclosure of the ancient pit had been cut with a blunt-edged instrument, doubtless of stone.
I afterward found similar pits in the oil regions of Kentucky and Tennessee, at Mecca and Grafton, Ohio, and at Enniskillen, in Canada. In the latter locality the oil was obtained by sinking pits to the depth of forty or fifty feet in the Drift clay, the oil issuing from crevices in the underlying rock and accumulating beneath the clay. In the excavation of one of these pits an ancient one of similar character was brought to light. This was filled with rubbish, twigs, leaves, etc., and a pair of antlers was taken from it at a depth of thirty-seven feet. The antiquity of this pit, like those of Oil Creek, was proved by the large trees growing over it.
The contents of their sepulchral mounds have supplied some information—though less than we desire—of the domestic habits of the mound-builders. Usually the bones they contain are so much decomposed in the lapse of time that they have given us but an imperfect knowledge of their osteology. From the few remains found well preserved we may, however, infer that as a people they were of average size, of fair proportions, and with a cranial development not unlike that of our modern Indians. The jaws were somewhat prognathous; their teeth—as is usual with all peoples who make much use of their jaws for mastication—are strong and regular; and the wisdom-tooth, which in our jaws, shortened by disuse, has inadequate room and is of little value, was with them one of the largest and most useful of the set. On account of the lengthened under jaw, the incisors met in direct opposition, and apparently because they used their teeth for grinding seeds of which the envelopes contained much silica, they are often found uniformily worn down nearly to the jaw. We know little of the crops the mound-builders cultivated except that their great staple was corn, and that they raised and used tobacco.
They buried their dead with imposing ceremonies, and not unfrequently cremated their remains on a kind of altar which occupies the center of the sepulchral mound, and, as is the habit with perhaps all primitive people, vases, weapons, tools, and ornaments were buried with the body. Of these the pottery sometimes shows considerable taste and skill—the vessels having graceful forms and being often ornamented with colors or with incised designs. The weapons and implements that are found so abundantly in the mounds and scattered over the surface are rarely of copper, generally of stone. Of these the arrow-heads, spear-heads, daggers, augers, and hoes are usually of flint; their axes and celts are generally made of green-stone, a tough and heavy rock specially adapted to such use; the celts were inserted in handles and closely resemble those of the polished-stone period in the Old World. Their axes, all grooved for a withe, were frequently wrought with great skill and patience. The most common ornaments found with the remains of the mound-builders are anklets or armlets of copper, and strings of beads of shells or bone, of copper or baked clay. In addition to these are many large ornaments of shell or stone perforated for suspension from the neck or for attachment to the head.
Of the clothing of the mound-builders we have as yet little information, since the lapse of time has caused fabrics of vegetable or animal fiber to perish. In a few instances, however, the antiseptic properties of copper salts or special conditions have been the means of preserving some fragments of cloth made from the fibers of a plant. Of these the workmanship is so good that we may believe that woven fabrics were largely used for clothing.
In regard to the ethnic relations of the mound-builders, the age in which they lived, and the causes of their disappearance, much has been conjectured, but little can be asserted. As to the time in which they lived in the country they inhabited—when and how long—this at least may be said, viz., that they occupied all the forest-covered region of the Mississippi Valley—to which they seem to have given a decided preference—for many hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. This is indicated by the general occupation of this wide-spread area, the magnitude and number of such of their works as have resisted the ravages of time, and the great abundance of the stone implements of their manufacture found scattered over the surface; also by the extent of their mining operations on Lake Superior and elsewhere. All this can mean nothing less than the long-continued possession of the country.
The general distribution throughout the valley of the Mississippi of shells obtained on the Gulf or Atlantic coast; the copper, mica, galena, flint implements, etc., all of known origin, indicate considerable internal interchange of commodities, but furnish no proof of a foreign commerce.
In regard to the origin of these peoples little is known. We may infer from their bony structure that they belonged to the American family of men, and were not unlike, in structure, physical aspect, and color, the red Indian of to-day.
A few stone tablets have been found in the mounds, which are decidedly Mexican in character; and if, as seems probable, the authenticity of these relics should be established, they would go far to prove synchronism and intercourse between the mound-builders and civilized races of the South; but this does little or nothing toward establishing a relationship between them.
As to when and why and how the mound-builders disappeared we can form a more accurate and reliable conception. A large number of the monuments left behind by them are of a defensive nature; in some localities, as in the valley of the Cuyahoga, near Cleveland, every headland which overlooks the river is crowned with a fort or citadel; and it is evident that those who occupied this and many other areas of the Mississippi Valley were engaged in a constant struggle with persistent, harassing enemies.
Following the migrations of the various tribes of the modern Indians (as we are able to do chiefly by the clew of language) we learn that they have come from the North, and have for hundreds of years been pushing by devious and interlacing routes southward to occupy the territory once possessed by sedentary, peaceful, and agricultural peoples—the mound-builders in the East and the stone-house builders in the West.
Limitation of time forbids the citation of the proof of this northern invasion, but it is sufficient to convince those who have most carefully studied the subject. We may therefore accept the conclusion that in America, as in Europe, hordes of northern barbarians (multiplied by the fecundity of a cool and healthful climate, and inspired by the force and restlessness acquired in their strife with Nature's obstacles) invaded southern lands whose more fertile soil and genial but enervating climate developed the arts of peace at the expense of those of war.
The commoner belief has been that the ultimate fate of the mound-builders was entire extinction; but there is good reason to believe that in the Natchez and Mandans, and perhaps some other tribes still existing, but in small numbers, at the advent of the whites, we have their lineal descendants. The grounds of this conclusion can not be fully set forth here, but it may be said that the tribes referred to in many respects contrast strongly with the more numerous and characteristic inhabitants of the country; and also that their customs and arts, their implements and structures, bear a close resemblance to those of the former occupants of the Mississippi Valley.
As to the time which has elapsed since the mines and structures of the mound-builders were abandoned we have only negative evidence. The heaps of débris about the Lake Superior copper mines, the filled-up oil wells, and the earthworks of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, were found by the incoming whites covered with dense forests in which the trees had attained their maximum size. Beneath this present generation of trees, and overgrown by their roots, were lying the prostrate and decaying trunks of a preceding generation. We thus have evidence that at least a thousand years had elapsed since the country was abandoned by its former inhabitants, and their fields and villages were overgrown by the forest. Beyond this point all dates are left to conjecture.
One interesting feature in the Western mounds is that many of them, especially in the prairie regions of the Northwest, are made to imitate, on a gigantic scale, the forms of men, quadrupeds, and birds, and among the animals thus represented is what seems to be the elephant or mastodon. Small figures of an elephantine animal also appear in the archæological collections of the Northwest, and are claimed to be authentic. These relics go far to prove the acquaintance of the mound-builders with either the mastodon or mammoth, and may be accepted as presumptive evidence of the synchronism of man here, as in Europe, with one or both of these great pachyderms—and hence of his great antiquity.
The Palace-builders.—The remains of an ancient civilization, scattered over the west coast of South America, the Isthmus, and Mexico, are so varied and interesting that they form a theme to which nothing like justice can be done in the few minutes at my disposal. Detailed descriptions of these great monuments are, however, the less necessary, since many volumes have been devoted to their exposition. Those who have access to Squier's Peru, Stephens's and Catherwood's, Norman's and Waldeck's books on Central America, or Lord Kingsborough's great work on Mexican Antiquities, will find there, and in the documents cited by their authors, a literature scarcely less rich and interesting than that formed by the records of the Egyptians or Assyrians.
Of this vast field I can give you but the merest sketch, but, as part of it lies within our own territory, and as in its exploration I have taken part, I can perhaps add some facts additional to those you have learned, and such as will compensate for the time they may occupy. To summarize, as briefly as possible, the knowledge we have of this subject, I may say that from the frontier of Chili to Salt Lake, there exists an almost uninterrupted series of monuments of a civilization which, though locally peculiar, was generically the same, and unquestionably the product of divergent streams flowing from a single source. The typical and characteristic remains of this civilization consist of great works of masonry and engineering (fortifications, temples, palaces, communal houses), which in their magnitude and perfection of workmanship rival the masterpieces of ancient architecture. Bridges, aqueducts, and thousands of miles of paved and graded roads attest the engineering skill of the people by whom they were constructed.
Honduras, Yucatan, and Colombia would seem to have been the center of this civilization. It is true that the monuments of Peru are equally extensive and imposing as those already discovered in Central America, but they are far better known; and we have reason to believe that, buried in the almost impenetrable forests of Honduras and the Isthmus, there still remain more extensive and interesting ruins than any yet brought to light. There is little doubt that here we have the richest field for future explorations, and a source from which we may hope for more light upon the history of the peoples whose works we are considering.
In regard to these peoples, however, there is no such mystery as clings about the mound-builders. Though stripped of much of its former power and glory, the civilization of the Incas and the Aztecs was still in active life at the time of the invasions of Cortes and Pizarro; though, under the hand of the oppressor, the native population, with all its complicated systems of laws, religion, customs, and literature, was rapidly destroyed or degraded beyond recognition. As we know, the chronicles of the old Spanish historians are somewhat highly colored, and the wealth, magnitude, and splendor of the cities they conquered were magnified by the Spaniards to enhance the glory of their exploits. There can be no doubt, however, that in both North and South America there were found civilized and wealthy nations, far advanced in all the arts then known in Europe, except the working of iron, and with a perfection of political, social, and religious organization that can not fail to excite our wonder and admiration.
As proof of the reality of the advancement in the arts and the solid achievements of the Peruvians, Mr. Squier tells me that the great Incarial road, which reaches from Quito to Chili, is a work of far greater magnitude than our Union Pacific Railroad; that some of the public buildings of the Peruvians were constructed of masonry that in its perfection is not surpassed by the finest monuments of ancient or modern architecture; also, that a single fortress guarding one of the passes through which the wild hordes of the upper Amazon sometimes entered Peru, was a mightier mass of masonry than would be formed by heaping together all the forts upon our coasts from Maine to Mexico.
As an evidence of the wealth of the country, it is reported that the gold and silver vessels brought for the ransom of Atahualpa, and which, as we read, filled his prison as high as he could reach, had a value of something like twenty-five hundred thousand dollars; and it is said further that the gold plates and ornaments stripped from the Temple of the Sun at Cuzco were worth not less than one million dollars.
The essential unity of the civilization which covered all the country containing the monuments referred to is attested by the resemblances in religion—for all was sun-worship—in language, in customs, in style of building, and especially by a peculiar skill in the construction of works of masonry, in the manufacture of pottery, and in ornamental decoration. That there were marked local differences, and that this civilization was shared by independent nationalities, is certain; but it is no less true that it sprang from a common source, and was harmonized by constant intercourse through hundreds and it may be thousands of years.
Since a large population was found inhabiting the cities and embodying this civilization at the time of the conquest, it would seem that everything important could be easily learned about this peculiar phase of human development. But it should be remembered that the propagation of the Christian faith was a motive only less strong than the thirst for gold in the Spanish invaders, and a bigotry ferociously intolerant of all heresy made it a cardinal virtue to destroy every representative of pagan creeds and rites.
Hence from religious as well as political causes the conquest was followed by a destruction which soon swept away nearly all traces of the literature, customs, and government of the conquered people, and did all that was possible to bury their history in oblivion. Fortunately, among the numerous monks who attended the invading armies were a few possessed of scholarly tastes, who described what they saw, and, perhaps surreptitiously, translated some of the ancient hieroglyphic records, and preserved vocabularies of some of the dialects then in use. These have furnished a clew to the interpretation of some at least of the abundant inscriptions in Central America, and we can not doubt that by the earnest following of this clew, and the patient application of the methods which have revealed the secrets of the Egyptian hieroglyphics and the Assyrian cuneiform characters, we shall obtain from the Central American records much light upon the history of the civilization we are considering.
In Mexico and Peru few inscriptions are preserved, and yet we know that the art of writing on paper, or its equivalent, was practiced in both countries.
Unfortunately, it was not the habit of these peoples, any more than it is with us, to make enduring records on stone, and the loss of the ephemeral manuscripts which existed at the time of the conquest is an irreparable one. There is little doubt, however, that when the inscriptions of Palenque, Uxmal, Copan, Chichenitza, etc., shall be translated, the mystery which has so long hung over the origin and progress of all this phase of intellectual culture will be dissipated.
Those who believe—as some do—that the Peruvian civilization is distinct from and totally independent of that of Central America and Mexico, will not share the hopes I entertain from the translation of the abundant records of Yucatan. But no one can compare the pyramidal structures of central Mexico, Tehuantepec, and Huanaco, or the style of architectural ornamentation of Mitla, Uxmal, and Granchimu, without feeling that they are the work of a people who were generically the same. The striking and peculiar images in gold, silver, and alloy, as well as the pottery of Peru, of Bogotá, and Chiriqui, afford confirmatory evidence of this unity.
The intercourse between these neighboring and cognate nations was undoubtedly for the most part by sea. Columbus met traders from cities of Central America at Ruatan, where they came in a vessel of considerable size, carrying sail and manned by twenty sailors; and Pizarro, on his way to Peru, when near the equator, encountered a vessel of the Peruvians, which he says "was like a European caravel," and was loaded with merchandise, vases, mirrors of burnished silver, and curious fabrics of cotton and wool, the latter undoubtedly made from the wool of the llama. With such vessels it would be easy to pass from the Mexican to the Central American and thence to the South American ports; and we have incidental evidence that this was done. Louis Hoffman, a German mining engineer, who was one of the scientific corps attached to the staff of Maximilian, and who on professional duty visited all the mining districts of Mexico, tells me that on the Pacific coast, directly south from the city of Mexico, in a region abounding in ruins yet unstudied, at the mouth of a river, is what was once a large seaport town. From this point the passage would be direct and easy to Tehuantepec, Panama, and thence southward.
The question of the origin of the Mexican and Peruvian civilization has been much discussed, and various views have been advanced in regard to it: by some, that it was the fruit of seed borne across the Atlantic by the Phoenician traders, and was therefore of European origin; by others, that it was a remnant of the civilization that pervaded the fabulous country of Atlantis, which once stretched from Central America far over toward the Old World, from which it was separated by a strait that was easily passed in the original dissemination of the human race.
It must be said, however, that with the exception of some features which are common to all phases of human culture, and are the spontaneous outgrowth of qualities which are inherent in all peoples—or are the records of creeds or customs which prevailed in the cradle of the human race, wherever that be—there is nothing whatever to indicate a borrowing from Egypt or Tyre or any European nation. On the contrary, there are an originality and independence in all the forms in which this civilization was embodied that prove that it was either indigenous and grew from small beginnings in the country where it subsequently attained its full development, or was imported in its embryonic state from the Oriental Archipelago. There are some things which indicate that its germs were derived from the latter source. On Ascension and Easter Islands there are large structures of stone with huge columnar engraved monuments. Remains of similar character are reported from the Sandwich, Kingsmill, the Ladrones, Navigator's, and other islands of the Pacific; and it is evident that, in times so ancient that all memory of them is lost, a people inhabited these islands who had many of the arts of civilization, and who were essentially and characteristically workers in stone. The similarity of the works on these different islands indicates their progressive occupation by a people who were compelled, in passing from one to another of their stopping-places, to traverse as great a breadth of ocean as separates some of these from the American continent; and it is not improbable that the final resting-place of this people was upon the western coast of the great double continent, of which the continuous Cordilleras, like a great wall, arrested their eastward migration. Here they spread from their center of radiation to Chili on the south and to Utah on the north, elaborating in the course of time a civilization that was locally colored by the varying conditions of existence, but retaining enough of its original character to show that it was all an outgrowth from a common root.
If this was the history of our Mexican and Peruvian civilization, its original founders must have belonged to the same general stock with those who built the architectural monuments of India, and erected in the island of Java those wonderful temples now buried in the forests, and in ruins.
Still, the time of separation must have been so remote, and the culture of the period so low, that each form of civilization grew up independently of the others, and they now show little relationship.
It is the opinion of geologists that a great continent once occupied portions of the present areas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans—a continent to which they have given the name Lemuria—and it is speculated that this was the cradle of the human race.
Be that as it may, from this section of the earth the brown Polynesians, Malays, Tahitans, Sandwich-Islanders, and Maoris spread, carrying with them characteristics and faculties which might very well be developed into a civilization such as that found on this continent by the European whites; and there is direct and collateral evidence that they sometimes landed on our shores.
Considering the balancing probabilities, I may say that it seems to be most probable that the west coast of America was colonized from that source, and that the development of great and cultivated nationalities was the result of ages of quiet residence in countries which favored by their climate and resources the special phase of development which we here find recorded.
As to the date of the planting of the first seeds of this civilization we can only say that it is lost in the obscurity of the past. Everything indicates that some of the monuments in the category we have reviewed are among the oldest records of the human race; and it is certain that the gradual growth and spread of this civilization, the long noonday of its maturity, and its progressive decadence—which began long before the advent of the Europeans—must be measured by thousands of years. Thus it will be seen that in antiquity this indigenous and peculiar American civilization takes rank with that of the Egyptians, Assyrians, Hindoos, and Chinese, and in respect to culture, numerical importance, and territorial area will bear comparison with either.