Popular Science Monthly/Volume 52/November 1897/Archaeology and the Antiquity of Man
|ARCHÆOLOGY AND THE ANTIQUITY OF MAN|
ONCE more has the Dominion of Canada invited the British Association for the Advancement of Science to hold one of the annual meetings of its members within the Canadian territory, and for a second time has the association had the honor and pleasure of accepting the proffered hospitality. In doing so the association has felt that if by any possibility the scientific welfare of a locality is promoted by its being the scene of such a meeting, the claims should be fully recognized of those who, though not dwelling in the British Isles, are still inhabitants of that Greater Britain, whose prosperity is so intimately connected with the fortunes of the mother country. Here, especially, as loyal subjects of one beloved sovereign, the sixtieth year of whose beneficent reign has just been celebrated with equal rejoicing in all parts of her empire, as speaking the same tongue, and as in most instances connected by the ties of one common parentage, we are bound together in all that can promote our common interests. There is, in all probability, nothing that will tend more to advance those interests than the diffusion of science in all parts of the British Empire, and it is toward this end that the aspirations of the British Association are ever directed, even if, in many instances, the aim may not be attained.
We are, as already mentioned, indebted to Canada for previous hospitality, but we must also remember that, since the time when we last assembled on this side of the Atlantic, the Dominion has provided the association with a president, Sir William Dawson, whose name is alike well known in Britain and America, and whose reputation is indeed world-wide. We rejoice that we have still among us the pioneer of American geology, who, among other discoveries, first made us acquainted with the "Air Breathers of the Coal," the terrestrial or, more properly, arboreal saurians of the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia coal measures.
On our last visit to Canada, in 1884, our place of assembly was Montreal, a city which is justly proud of her McGill University; today we meet within the buildings of another of the universities of this vast Dominion, and in a city the absolute fitness of which for such a purpose must have been foreseen by the native Indian tribes when they gave to a small aggregation of huts upon this spot the name of Toronto—"the place of meetings." Our gathering this year presents a feature of entire novelty and extreme interest, inasmuch as the sister association of the United States of America—still mourning the loss of her illustrious president, Professor Cope—and some other learned societies have made special arrangements to allow of their members coming here to join us. I need hardly say how welcome their presence is, or how gladly we look forward to their taking part in our discussions and aiding us by interchange of thought. To such a meeting the term "international" seems almost misapplied. It may rather be described as a family gathering, in which our relatives more or less distant in blood, but still intimately connected with us by language, literature, and habits of thought, have spontaneously arranged to take part. The domain of science is no doubt one in which the various nations of the civilized world meet upon equal terms, and for which no other passport is required than some evidence of having striven toward the advancement of natural knowledge. Here, on the frontier between the two great English-speaking nations of the world, who is there that does not inwardly feel that anything which conduces to an intimacy between the representatives of two countries, both of them actively engaged in the pursuit of science, may also, through such an intimacy, react on the affairs of daily life and aid in preserving those cordial relations that have now for so many years existed between the great American Republic and the British Islands, with which her early foundations are indissolubly connected? The present year has witnessed an interchange of courtesies which has excited the warmest feelings of approbation on both sides of the Atlantic—I mean the return to its proper custodians of one of the most interesting of the relics of the Pilgrim Fathers, the log of the Mayflower. May this return, trifling in itself, be of happy augury as testifying to the feelings of mutual regard and esteem which animate the hearts both of the donors and of the recipients!
At our meeting in Montreal the president was an investigator who had already attained to a foremost place in the domains of physics and mathematics, Lord Rayleigh. In his address he dealt mainly with topics such as light, heat, sound, and electricity, on which he is one of our principal authorities. His name and that of his fellow-worker, Professor Ramsay, are now and will in all future ages be associated with the discovery of the new element, argon. Of the ingenious methods by which that discovery was made, and the existence of argon established, this is not the place to speak. One can only hope that the element will not always continue to justify its name by its inertness. The claims of such a leader in physical science as Lord Rayleigh to occupy the presidential chair are self-evident, but possibly those of his successor on this side of the Atlantic are not so immediately apparent. I can not for a moment pretend to place myself on the same purely scientific level as my distinguished friend and for many years colleague, Lord Rayleigh, and my claims, such as they are, seem to me to rest on entirely different grounds. Whatever little I may have indirectly been able to do in assisting to promote the advancement of science, my principal efforts have now for many years been directed toward attempting to forge those links in the history of the world, and especially of humanity, that connect the past with the present, and toward tracing that course of evolution which plays as important a part in the physical and moral development of man as it does in that of the animal and vegetable creation. It appears to me, therefore, that my election to this important post may, in the main, be regarded as a recognition by this association of the value of archæology as a science. Leaving all personal considerations out of question, I gladly hail this recognition, which is, indeed, in full accordance with the attitude already for many years adopted by the association toward anthropology, one of the most important branches of true archæology.
It is no doubt hard to define the exact limits which are to be assigned to archæology as a science and archæology as a branch of history and belles lettres. A distinction is frequently drawn between science on the one hand and knowledge or learning on the other; but translate the terms into Latin and the distinction at once disappears. In illustration of this I need only cite Bacon's great work on the Advancement of Learning, which was, with his own aid, translated into Latin under the title De Augmentis Scientiarum. It must, however, be acknowledged that a distinction does exist between archæology proper and what, for want of a better word, may be termed antiquarianism. It may be interesting to know the internal arrangements of a Dominican convent in the middle ages; to distinguish between the different moldings characteristic of the principal styles of Gothic architecture; to determine whether an English coin bearing the name of Henry was struck under Henry II, Richard, John, or Henry III; or to decide whether some given edifice was erected in Roman, Saxon, or Norman times. But the power to do this, though involving no small degree of detailed knowledge and some acquaintance with scientific methods, can hardly entitle its possessors to be enrolled among the votaries of science. A familiarity with all the details of Greek and Roman mythology and culture must be regarded as a literary rather than a scientific qualification; and yet when among the records of classical times we come upon traces of manners and customs which have survived for generations, and which seem to throw some rays of light upon the dim past, when history and writing were unknown, we are, I think, approaching the boundaries of scientific archæology.
Every reader of Virgil knows that the Greeks were not merely orators, but that with a pair of compasses they could describe the movements of the heavens and fix the rising of the stars; but when by modern astronomy we can determine the heliacal rising of some well-known star, with which the worship in some given ancient temple is known to have been connected, and can fix its position on the horizon at some particular spot, say, three thousand years ago, and then find that the axis of the temple is directed exactly toward that spot, we have some trustworthy scientific evidence that the temple in question must have been erected at a date approximately 1100 years b. c. If on or close to the same site we find that more than one temple was erected, each having a different orientation, these variations, following, as they may fairly be presumed to do, the changing position of the rising of the dominant star, will also afford a guide as to the chronological order of the different foundations. The researches of Mr. Penrose seem to show that in certain Greek temples, of which the date of foundation is known from history, the actual orientation corresponds with that theoretically deduced from astronomical data. Sir J. Norman Lockyer has shown that what holds good for Greek temples applies to many of far earlier date in Egypt, though up to the present time hardly a sufficient number of accurate observations have been made to justify us in foreseeing all the instructive results that may be expected to arise from astronomy coming to the aid of archæology. The intimate connection of archæology with other sciences is in no case so evident as with respect to geology, for when considering subjects such as those I shall presently discuss it is almost impossible to say where the one science ends and the other begins.
By the application of geological methods many archæological questions relating even to subjects on the borders of the historical period have been satisfactorily solved. A careful examination of the limits of the area over which its smaller coins are found has led to the position of many an ancient Greek city being accurately ascertained; while in England it has only been by treating the coins of the ancient Britons, belonging to a period before the Roman occupation, as if they were actual fossils that the territories under the dominion of the various kings and princes who struck them have been approximately determined. In arranging the chronological sequence of these coins, the evolution of their types—a process almost as remarkable, and certainly as well defined, as any to be found in Nature—has served as an efficient guide. I may venture to add that the results obtained from the study of the morphology of this series of coins were published ten years before the appearance of Darwin's great work on the Origin of Species. When we come to the consideration of the relics of the early iron and bronze ages the aid of chemistry has of necessity to be invoked. By its means we are able to determine whether the iron of a tool or weapon is of meteoritic or volcanic origin, or has been reduced from iron ore, in which case considerable knowledge of metallurgy would be involved on the part of those who made it. With bronze antiquities the nature and extent of the alloys combined with the copper may throw light not only on their chronological position but on the sources whence the copper, tin, and other metals of which they consist were originally derived. I am not aware of there being sufficient differences in the analyses of the native copper from different localities in the region in which we are assembled for Canadian archæologists to fix the sources from which the metal was obtained which was used in the manufacture of the ancient tools and weapons of copper that are occasionally discovered in this part of the globe. Like chemistry, mineralogy and petrology may be called to the assistance of archæology in determining the nature and source of the rocks of which ancient stone implements are made; and, thanks to researches of the followers of those sciences, the old view that all such implements formed of jade and found in Europe must of necessity have been fashioned from material imported from Asia can no longer be maintained. In one respect the archæologist differs in opinion from the mineralogist—namely, as to the propriety of chipping off fragments from perfect and highly finished specimens for the purpose of submitting them to microscopic examination.
I have hitherto been speaking of the aid that other sciences can afford to archæology when dealing with questions that come almost, if not quite, within the fringe of history, and belong to times when the surface of our earth presented much the same configuration as regards the distribution of land and water and hill and valley as it does at present, and when in all probability the climate was much the same as it now is. When, however, we come to discuss that remote age in which we find the earliest traces that are at present known of man's appearance upon earth the age of geology and paleontology becomes absolutely imperative. The changes in the surface configuration and in the extent of the land, especially in a country like Britain, as well as the modifications of the fauna and flora since those days, have been such that the archæologist pure and simple is incompetent to deal with them, and he must either himself undertake the study of these other sciences or call experts in them to his assistance. The evidence that man had already appeared upon the earth is afforded by stone implements wrought by his hands, and it falls strictly within the province of the archæologist to judge whether given specimens were so wrought or not; it rests with the geologist to determine their stratigraphical or chronological position, while the paleontologist can pronounce upon the age and character of the associated fauna and flora. If left to himself the archæologist seems too prone to build up theories founded upon form alone, irrespective of geological conditions. The geologist, unaccustomed to archæological details, may readily fail to see the difference between the results of the operations of Nature and those of art, and may be liable to trace the effects of man's handiwork in the chipping, bruising, and wearing which in all ages result from natural forces; but the united labors of the two, checked by those of the paleontologist, can not do otherwise than lead toward sound conclusions.
It will perhaps be expected of me that I should on the present occasion bring under review the state of our present knowledge with regard to the antiquity of man; and probably no fitter place could be found for the discussion of such a topic than the adopted home of my venerated friend, the late Sir Daniel Wilson, who first introduced the word "prehistoric" into the English language. Some among us may be able to call to mind the excitement not only among men of science but among the general public when, in 1859, the discoveries of M. Boucher de Perthes and Dr. Rigollot in the gravels of the valley of the Somme, at Abbeville and Amiens, were confirmed by the investigations of the late Sir Joseph Prestwich, myself, and others, and the co-existence of man with the extinct animals of the Quaternary fauna, such as the mammoth and woolly-haired rhinoceros, was first virtually established. It was at the same time pointed out that these relics belonged to a far earlier date than the ordinary stone weapons found upon the surface, which usually showed signs of grinding or polishing, and that, in fact, there were two stone ages in Britain. To these the terms "neolithic" and "palæolithic" were subsequently applied by Sir John Lubbock. The excitement was not less when, at the meeting of this association at Aberdeen in the autumn of that year, Sir Charles Lyell, in the presence of the Prince Consort, called attention to the discoveries in the valley of the Somme, the site of which he had himself visited, and to the vast lapse of time indicated by the position of the implements in drift deposits a hundred feet above the existing river. The conclusions forced upon those who examined the facts on the spot did not receive immediate acceptance by all who were interested in geology and archæology, and fierce were the controversies on the subject that were carried on both in the newspapers and before various learned societies. It is at the same time instructive and amusing to look back on the discussions of those days. While one class of objectors accounted for the configuration of the flint implements from the gravels by some unknown chemical agency, by the violent and continued gyratory action of water, by fracture resulting from pressure, by rapid cooling when hot, or by rapid heating when cold, or even regarded them as aberrant forms of fossil fishes, there were others who, when compelled to acknowledge that the implements were the work of men's hands, attempted to impugn and set aside the evidence as to the circumstances under which they had been discovered. In doing this they adopted the view that the worked flints had either been introduced into the containing beds at a comparatively recent date, or if they actually formed constituent parts of the gravel then that this was a mere modern alluvium resulting from floods at no very remote period. In the course of a few years the main stream of scientific thought left this controversy behind, though a tendency to cut down the lapse of time necessary for all the changes that have taken place in the configuration of the surface of the earth and in the character of its occupants since the time of the palæolithic gravels still survives in the inmost recesses of the hearts of not a few observers.
In his address to this association at the Bath meeting of 1864 Sir Charles Lyell struck so true a note that I am tempted to reproduce the paragraph to which I refer: When speculations on the long series of events which occurred in the Glacial and Post-glacial periods are indulged in, the imagination is apt to take alarm at the immensity of the time required to interpret the monuments of these ages, all referable to the era of existing species. In order to abridge the number of centuries which would otherwise be indispensable, a disposition is shown by many to magnify the rate of change in prehistoric times by investing the causes which have modified the animate and inanimate world with chronology of the earth and its inhabitants in remote ages, so fettered have we been by old traditional beliefs, that even when our reason is convinced and we are persuaded that we ought to make more liberal grants of time to the geologist, we feel how hard it is to get the chill of poverty out. of our bones." Many, however, have at the present day got over this feeling, and of late years the general tendency of those engaged upon the question of the antiquity of the human race has been in the direction of seeking for evidence by which the existence of man upon the earth could be carried back to a date earlier than that of the Quaternary gravels. There is little doubt that such evidence will eventually be forthcoming, but, judging from all probability, it is not in northern Europe that the cradle of the human race will eventually be discovered, but in some part of the world more favored by a tropical climate, where abundant means of subsistence could be procured, and where the necessity for warm clothing did not exist. Before entering into speculations on this subject, or attempting to lay down the limits within which we may safely accept recent discoveries as firmly established, it will be well to glance at some of the cases in which implements are stated to have been found under circumstances which raise a presumption of the existing of man in Pre-glacial, Pliocene, or even Miocene times.and excessive energy. It is related of a great Irish orator of our day that when he was about to contribute somewhat parsimoniously toward a public charity he was persuaded by a friend to make a more liberal donation. In doing so he apologized for his first apparent want of generosity by saying that his early life had been a constant struggle with scanty means, and that ‘they who are born to affluence can not easily imagine how long a time it takes to get the chill of poverty out of one's bones.’ In like manner we of the living generation, when called upon to make grants of thousands of centuries in order to explain the events of what is called the modern period, shrink naturally at first from making what seems so lavish an expenditure of past time. Throughout our early education we have been accustomed to such strict economy in all that relates to the
Flint implements of ordinary palæolithic type have, for instance, been recorded as found in the eastern counties of England in beds beneath the chalky bowlder clay; but on careful examination the geological evidence has not to my mind proved satisfactory, nor has it, I believe, been generally accepted. Moreover, the archæological difficulty that man, at two such remote epochs as the Pre-glacial and the Post-glacial, even if the term "glacial" be limited to the chalky bowlder clay, should have manufactured implements so identical in character that they can not be distinguished apart, seems to have been entirely ignored. Within the last few months we have had the report of worked flints having been discovered in the late Pliocene forest bed of Norfolk, but in that instance the signs of human workmanship upon the flints are by no means apparent to all observers. But such an antiquity as that of the forest bed is as nothing when compared with that which would be implied by the discoveries of the work of men's hands in the Pliocene and Miocene beds of England, France, Italy, and Portugal, which have been accepted by some geologists. There is one feature in these cases which has hardly received due attention, and that is the isolated character of the reputed discoveries. Had man, for instance, been present in Britain during the crag period, it would be strange indeed if the sole traces of his existence that he left were a perforated tooth of a large shark, the sawn rib of a manatee, and a beaming full face carved on the shell of a pectunculus!
In an address to the Anthropological Section at the Leeds meeting of this association in 1890 I dealt somewhat fully with these supposed discoveries of the remains of human art in beds of Tertiary date; and I need not here go further into the question. Suffice it to say that I see no reason why the verdict of "not proven," at which I then arrived, should be reversed. In the case of a more recent discovery in upper Burma in beds at first pronounced to be upper Miocene, but subsequently "definitely ascertained to be Pliocene," some of the flints are of purely natural and not artificial origin, so that two questions arise: First, were the fossil remains associated with the worked flints or with those of natural forms? and second, were they actually found in the bed to which they have been assigned, or did they merely lie together on the surface? Even the Pithecanthropus erectus of Dr. Eugène Dubois from Java meets with some incredulous objectors from both the physiological and the geological sides. From the point of view of the latter the difficulty lies in determining the exact age of what are apparently alluvial beds in the bottom of a river valley.
When we return to palæolithic man it is satisfactory to feel that we are treading on comparatively secure ground, and that the discoveries of the last forty years in Britain alone enable us to a great extent to reconstitute his history. We may not know the exact geological period when first he settled in the British area, but we have good evidence that he occupied it at a time when the configuration of the surface was entirely different from what it is at present, when the river valleys had not been cut down to anything like their existing depth, when the fauna of the country was of a totally different character from that of the present day, when the extension of the southern part of the island seaward was in places such that the land was continuous with that of the continent, and when in all probability a far more rainy climate prevailed. We have proofs of the occupation of the country by man during the long lapse of time that was necessary for the excavation of the river valleys. We have found the old floors on which his habitations were fixed, we have been able to trace him at work on the manufacture of flint instruments, and by building up the one upon the other the flakes struck off by the primeval workman in those remote times we have been able to reconstruct the blocks of flint which served as his material. That the duration of the palæolithic period must have extended over an almost incredible length of time is sufficiently proved by the fact that valleys, some miles in width and of a depth of from one hundred to one hundred and fifty feet, have been eroded since the deposit of the earliest implement-bearing beds. Nor is the apparent duration of this period diminished by the consideration that the floods which hollowed out the valleys were not in all probability of such frequent occurrence as to teach palæolithic man by experience the danger of settling too near to the streams, for had he kept to the higher slopes of the valley there would have been but little chance of his implements having so constantly formed constituent parts of the gravels deposited by the floods.
The examination of British cave deposits affords corroborative evidence of this extended duration of the palæolithic period. In Kent's Cavern at Torquay, for instance, we find in the lowest deposit, the breccia below the red cave earth, implements of flint and chert corresponding in all respects with those of the high level and most ancient river gravels. In the cave earth these are scarcer, though implements occur which also have their analogues in the river deposits; but, what is more remarkable, harpoons of reindeer's horn and needles of bone are present, identical in form and character with those of the caverns of the reindeer period in the south of France, and suggestive of some bond of union or identity of descent between the early troglodytes, whose habitations were geographically so widely separated the one from the other.
In a cavern at Creswell Crags, on the confines of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, a bone has, moreover, been found engraved with a representation of parts of a horse in precisely the same style as the engraved bones of the French caves. It is uncertain whether any of the river-drift specimens belong to so late a date as these artistic cavern remains; but the greatly superior antiquity of even these to any neolithic relics is testified by the thick layer of stalagmite which had been deposited in Kent's Cavern before its occupation by men of the neolithic and bronze periods. Toward the close of the period covered by the human occupation of the French caves there seems to have been a dwindling in the number of the larger animals constituting the Quaternary fauna, whereas their remains are present in abundance in the lower and therefore more recent of the valley gravels. This circumstance may afford an argument in favor of regarding the period represented by the later French caves as a continuation of that during which the old river gravels were deposited, and yet the great change in the fauna that has taken place since the latest of the cave deposits included in the palæolithic period is indicative of an immense lapse of time. How much greater must have been the time required for the more conspicuous change between the old Quaternary fauna of the river gravels and that characteristic of the neolithic period! As has been pointed out by Prof. Boyd Dawkins, only thirty-one out of the forty-eight well-ascertained species living in the Post-glacial or river-drift period survived into prehistoric or neolithic times. We have not, indeed, any means at command for estimating the number of centuries which such an important change indicates; but when we remember that the date of the commencement of the neolithic or surface stone period is still shrouded in the mist of a dim antiquity, and that prior to that commencement the river-drift period had long come to an end; and when we further take into account the almost inconceivable ages that even under the most favorable conditions the excavation of wide and deep valleys by river action implies, the remoteness of the date at which the palæolithic period had its beginning almost transcends our powers of imagination. We find distinct traces of river action from one hundred to two hundred feet above the level of existing streams and rivers, and sometimes at a great distance from them; we observe old fresh-water deposits on the slopes of the valleys several miles in width; we find that long and lofty escarpments of rock have receded unknown distances since their summits were first occupied by palæolithic man; we see that the whole side of a wide river valley has been carried away by an invasion of the sea, which attacked and removed a barrier of chalk cliffs from four hundred to six hundred feet in height; we find that what was formerly an inland river has been widened out into an arm of the sea, now the highway of our fleets, and that gravels which were originally deposited in the bed of some ancient river now cap isolated and lofty hills.
And yet, remote as the date of the first known occupation of Britain by man may be, it belongs to what, geologically speaking, must be regarded as a quite recent period, for we are now in a position to fix with some degree of accuracy its place on the geological scale. Thanks to investigations ably carried out at Hoxne, in Suffolk, and at Hitchin, in Hertfordshire, by Mr. Clement Reid, under the auspices of this association and of the Royal Society, we know that the implement-bearing beds at those places undoubtedly belong to a time subsequent to the deposit of the great chalky bowlder clay of the eastern counties of England. It is, of course, self-evident that this vast deposit, in whatever manner it may have been formed, could not for centuries after its deposition was complete have presented a surface inhabitable by man. Moreover, at a distance but little farther north beds exist which also, though at a somewhat later date, were apparently formed under glacial conditions. At Hoxne the interval between the deposit of the bowlder clay and of the implement-bearing beds is distinctly proved to have witnessed at least two noteworthy changes in climate. The beds immediately reposing on the clay are characterized by the presence of alder in abundance, of hazel and yew, as well as by that of numerous flowering plants indicative of a temperate climate very different from that under which the bowlder clay itself was formed. Above these beds, characterized by temperate plants, comes a thick and more recent series of strata, in which leaves of the dwarf arctic willow and birch abound, and which were in all probability deposited under conditions like those of the cold regions of Siberia and North America. At a higher level and of more recent date than these—from which they are entirely distinct—are the beds containing palæolithic implements, formed in all probability under conditions not essentially different from those of the present day. However this may be, we have now conclusive evidence that the palæolithic implements are, in the eastern counties of England, of a date long posterior to that of the great chalky bowlder clay.
It may be said, and said truly, that the implements at Hoxne can not be shown to belong to the beginning rather than to some later stage of the palæolithic period. The changes, however, that have taken place at Hoxne in the surface configuration of the country prove that the beds containing the implements can not belong to the close of that period. It must, moreover, be remembered that in what are probably the earliest of the palæolithic deposits of the eastern counties, those at the highest level, near Brandon in Norfolk, where the gravels contain the largest proportion of pebbles derived from glacial beds, some of the implements themselves have been manufactured from materials not native to the spot, but brought from a distance, and derived in all probability either from the bowlder clay or from some of the beds associated with it. We must, however, take a wider view of the whole question, for it must not for a moment be supposed that there are the slightest grounds for believing that the civilization, such as it was, of the palæolithic period originated in the British Isles. We find in other countries implements so identical in form and character with British specimens that they might have been manufactured by the same hands. These occur over large areas in France under similar conditions to those that prevail in England. The same forms have been discovered in the ancient river gravels of Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Some few have been recorded from the north of Africa, and analogous types occur in considerable numbers in the south of that continent. On the banks of the Nile, many hundreds of feet above its present level, implements of the European types have been discovered; while in Somaliland, in an ancient river valley at a great elevation above the sea, Mr. Seton-Karr has collected a large number of implements formed of flint and quartzite, which, judging from their form and character, might have been dug out of the drift deposits of the Somme of the Seine, the Thames or the ancient Solent. In the valley of the Euphrates implements of the same kind have also been found, and again farther east in the lateritic deposits of southern India they have been obtained in considerable numbers. It is not a little remarkable, and is at the same time highly suggestive, that a form of implement almost, peculiar to Madras reappears among implements from the very ancient gravels of the Manzanares at Madrid. In the case of the African discoveries we have as yet no definite paleontological evidence by which to fix their antiquity, but in the Narbadá Valley of western India palæolithic implements of quartzite seem to be associated with a local fauna of Pleistocene age, comprising, like that of Europe, the elephant, hippopotamus, ox, and other mammals of species now extinct. A correlation of the two faunas with a view of ascertaining their chronological relations is beset with many difficulties, but there seems reason for accepting this Indian Pleistocene fauna as in some degree more ancient than the European.
Is this not a case in which the imagination may be fairly invoked in aid of science? May we not from these data attempt in some degree to build up and reconstruct the early history of the human family? There, in eastern Asia, in a tropical climate, with the means of subsistence readily at hand, may we not picture to ourselves our earliest ancestors gradually developing from a lowly origin, acquiring a taste for hunting, if not indeed being driven to protect themselves from the beasts around them, and evolving the more complicated forms of tools or weapons from the simpler flakes which had previously served them as knives? May we not imagine that when once the stage of civilization denoted by these palæolithic implements had been reached the game for the hunter became scarcer, and that his life in consequence assumed a more nomad character? Then, and possibly not till then, may a series of migrations to "fresh woods and pastures new" not unnaturally have ensued, and these following the usual course of "westward toward the setting sun" might eventually lead to a palæolithic population finding its way to the extreme borders of western Europe, where we find such numerous traces of its presence. How long a term of years may be involved in such a migration it is impossible to say, but that such a migration took place the phenomena seem to justify us in believing. It can hardly be supposed that the process that I have shadowed forth was reversed, and that man, having originated in northwestern Europe, in a cold climate where clothing was necessary and food scarce, subsequently migrated eastward to India and southward to the Cape of Good Hope. As yet our records of discoveries in India and eastern Asia are but scanty; but it is there that the traces of the cradle of the human race are, in my opinion, to be sought, and possibly future discoveries may place upon a more solid foundation the visionary structure that I have ventured to erect.
It may be thought that my hypothesis does not do justice to what Sir Thomas Browne has so happily termed "that great antiquity, America." I am, however, not here immediately concerned with the important neolithic remains of all kinds with which this great continent abounds. I am now confining myself to the question of palæolithic man and his origin, and in considering it I am not unmindful of the Trenton implements, though I must content myself by saying that the "turtle-back" form is essentially different from the majority of those on the wide dissemination of which I have been speculating, and, moreover, as many here present are aware, the circumstances of the finding of these American implements are still under careful discussion. Leaving them out of the question for the present, it may be thought worth while to carry our speculations rather further, and to consider the relations in time between the palæolithic and the neolithic periods. We have seen that the stage in human civilization denoted by the use of the ordinary forms of palæolithic implements must have extended over a vast period of time if we have to allow for the migration of the primeval hunters from their original home, wherever it may have been in Asia or Africa, to the west of Europe, including Britain. We have seen that during this migration the forms of the weapons and tools made from siliceous stones had become, as it were, stereotyped, and, further, that during the subsequent extended period implied by the erosion of the valleys the modifications in the form of the implements and the changes in the fauna associated with the men who used them were but slight. At the close of the period during which the valleys were being eroded comes that represented by the latest occupation of the caves by palæolithic man, when both in Britain and in the south of France the reindeer was abundant; but among the stone weapons and implements of that long troglodytic phase of man's history not a single example with the edge sharpened by grinding has as yet been found. All that can safely be said is that the larger implements, as well as the larger mammals, had become scarcer, that greater power in chipping flint had been attained, that the arts of the engraver and the sculptor had considerably developed, and that the use of the bow had probably been discovered. Directly we encounter the relics of the neolithic period, often, in the case of the caves lately mentioned, separated from the earlier remains by a thick layer of underlying stalagmite, we find flint hatchets polished at the edge and on the surface, cutting at the broad and not at the narrow end, and other forms of implements associated with, a fauna in all essential respects identical with that of the present day.
Were the makers of these polished weapons the direct descendants of palæolithic ancestors whose occupation of the country was continuous from the days of the old river gravels? or had these long since died out, so that after western Europe had for ages remained uninhabited it was repeopled in neolithic times by the immigration of some new race of men? Was there, in fact, a "great gulf fixed" between the two occupations? or was there in Europe a gradual transition from the one stage of culture to the other? It has been said that "what song the sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions, are not beyond all conjecture"; and though the questions now proposed may come under the same category, and must await the discovery of many more essential facts before they receive definite and satisfactory answers, we may, I think, throw some light upon them if we venture to take a few steps upon the seductive if insecure paths of conjecture. So far as I know we have as yet no trustworthy evidence of any transition from the one age to the other, and the gulf between them remains practically unbridged. We can, indeed, hardly name the part of the world in which to seek for the cradle of neolithic civilization, though we know that traces of what appear to have been a stone-using people have been discovered in Egypt, and that what must be among the latest of the relics of their industry have been assigned to a date some thirty-five hundred to four thousand years before our era. The men of that time had attained to the highest degree of skill in working flint that has ever been reached. Their beautifully made knives and spearheads seem indicative of a culminating point reached after long ages of experience; but whence these artists in flint came or who they were is at present absolutely unknown, and their handiworks afford no clew to help us in tracing their origin. Taking a wider survey, we may say that, generally speaking, not only the fauna but the surface configuration of the country were, in western Europe at all events, much the same at the commencement of the neolithic period as they are at the present day. We have, too, no geological indications to aid us in forming any chronological scale.
The occupation of some of the caves in the south of France seems to have been carried on after the erosion of the neighboring river valleys had ceased, and so far as our knowledge goes these caves offer evidence of being the latest in time of those occupied by man during the palæolithic period. It seems barely possible that though in the north of Europe there are no distinct signs of such late occupation, yet that in the south man may have lived on, though in diminished numbers; and that in some of the caves, such, for instance, as those in the neighborhood of Mentone, there may be traces of his existence during the transitional period that connects the palæolithic and neolithic ages. If this were really the case, we might expect to find some traces of a dissemination of neolithic culture from a north Italian center, but I much doubt whether any such traces actually exist. If it had been in that part of the world that the transition took place, how are we to account for the abundance of polished stone hatchets found in central India? Did neolithic man return eastward by the same route as that by which in remote ages his palæolithic predecessor had migrated westward? Would it not be in defiance of all probability to answer such a question in the affirmative? We have, it must be confessed, nothing of a substantial character to guide us in these speculations; but, pending the advent of evidence to the contrary, we may, I think, provisionally adopt the view that owing to failure of food, climatal changes, or other causes, the occupation of western Europe by palæolithic man absolutely ceased, and that it was not until after an interval of long duration that Europe was repeopled by a race of men immigrating from some other part of the globe where the human race had survived, and in course of ages had developed a higher stage of culture than that of palæolithic man.
I have been carried away by the liberty allowed for conjecture into the regions of pure imagination, and must now return to the realms of fact, and one fact on which I desire for a short time to insist is that of the existence at the present day, in close juxtaposition with our own civilization, of races of men who—at all events but a few generations ago—lived under much the same conditions as did our own neolithic predecessors in Europe. The manners and customs of these primitive tribes and peoples are changing day by day, their languages are becoming obsolete, their myths and traditions are dying out, their ancient processes of manufacture are falling into oblivion, and their numbers are rapidly diminishing, so that it seems inevitable that ere long many of these interesting populations will become absolutely extinct. The admirable Bureau of Ethnology instituted by our neighbors in the United States of America has done much toward preserving a knowledge of the various native races in this vast continent; and here in Canada the annual Archæological Reports presented to the Minister of Education are rendering good service in the same cause. Moreover, the committee of this association appointed to investigate the physical characters, languages, and industrial and social conditions of the northwestern tribes of the Dominion of Canada is about to present its twelfth and final report, which, in conjunction with those already presented, will do much toward preserving a knowledge of the habits and languages of those tribes. It is sad to think that Mr. Horatio Hale, whose comprehensive grasp of the bearings of ethnological questions, and whose unremitting labors have so materially conduced to the success of the committee, should be no longer among us. Although this report is said to be final, it is to be hoped that the committee may be able to indicate lines upon which future work in the direction of ethnological and archæological research may be profitably carried on in this part of her Majesty's dominions. It is, however, lamentable to notice how little is being or has been officially done toward preserving a full record of the habits, beliefs, arts, myths, languages, and physical characteristics of the countless other tribes and nations more or less uncivilized which are comprised within the limits of the British Empire. At the meeting of this association held last year at Liverpool it was resolved by the general committee "that it is of urgent importance to impress upon the Government the necessity of establishing a Bureau of Ethnology for Greater Britain, which, by collecting information with regard to the native races within and on the borders of the empire, will prove of immense value to science and to the Government itself." It has been suggested that such a bureau might with the greatest advantage and with the least outlay and permanent expense be connected either with the British Museum or with the Imperial Institute, and the project has already been submitted for the consideration of the trustees of the former establishment. The existence of an almost unrivaled ethnological collection in the museum, and the presence there of officers already well versed in ethnological research, seem to afford an argument in favor of the proposed bureau being connected with it. On the other hand, the Imperial Institute was founded with an especial view to its being a center around which every interest connected with the dependencies of the empire might gather for information and support. The establishment within the last twelve months of a scientific department within the institute, with well-appointed laboratories and a highly trained staff, shows how ready are those concerned in its management to undertake any duties that may conduce to the welfare of the outlying parts of the British Empire—a fact of which I believe that Canada is fully aware. The institute is therefore likely to develop, so far as its scientific department is concerned, into a bureau of advice in all matters scientific and technical, and certainly a Bureau of Ethnology such as that suggested would not be out of place within its walls. Wherever such an institution is to be established, the question of its existence must of necessity rest with her Majesty's Government and Treasury, inasmuch as without funds, however moderate, the undertaking can not be carried on. I trust that in considering the question it will always be borne in mind that in the relations between civilized and uncivilized nations and races it is of the first importance that the prejudices, and especially the religious or semi-religious and caste prejudices of the latter should be thoroughly well known to the former. If but a single "little war" could be avoided in consequence of the knowledge acquired and stored up by the Bureau of Ethnology preventing such a misunderstanding as might culminate in warfare, the cost of such an institution would quickly be saved.
I fear that it will be thought that I have dwelt too long on primeval man and his modern representatives, and that I should have taken this opportunity to discuss some more general subject, such as the advances made in the various departments of science since last this association met in Canada. Such a subject would no doubt have afforded an infinity of interesting topics on which to dilate. Spectrum analysis, the origin and nature of celestial bodies, photography, the connection between heat, light, and electricity, the practical applications of the latter, terrestrial magnetism, the liquefaction and solidification of gases, the behavior of elements and compounds under the influence of extreme cold, the nature and uses of the Röntgen rays, the advances in bacteriology and in prophylactic medicine, might all have been passed under review, and to many of my audience would have seemed to possess greater claims to attention than the subject that I have chosen. It must, however, be borne in mind that most, if not indeed all, of these topics will be discussed by more competent authorities in the various sections of the association by means of the presidential addresses or otherwise. Nor must it be forgotten that I occupy this position as a representative of archæology, and am therefore justified in bringing before you a subject in which every member of every race of mankind ought to be interested—the antiquity of the human family and the scenes of its infancy.
Others will direct our thoughts in other directions, but the further we proceed the more clearly shall we realize the connection and interdependence of all departments of science. Year after year, as meetings of this association take place, we may also foresee that "many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased." Year after year advances will be made in science and in reading that Book of Nature that lies ever open before our eyes; successive stones will be brought for building up that temple of knowledge of which our fathers and we have labored to lay the foundations. May we not well exclaim with old Robert Recorde: "Oh woorthy temple of Goddes magnificence: Oh throne of glorye and seate of the lorde: thy substance most pure what tonge can describe? thy signes are so wonderous, surmountinge mannes witte, the effects of thy motions so diuers in kinde: so harde for to searche, and worse for to fynde—Thy woorkes are all wonderous, thy cunning unknowen: yet seedes of all knowledge in that booke are sowen—And yet in that boke who rightly can reade, to all secrete knowledge it will him straighte leade."
- Presidential address delivered at the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Toronto, 1897.
- Preface to Robert Recorde's Castle of Knowledge, 1556.