Popular Science Monthly/Volume 6/April 1875/The First Traces of Man in Europe I
|THE FIRST TRACES OF MAN IN EUROPE.|
IN a fine contrasting of Europe's wealth of historic memorials with his own country's yet new civilization, Washington Irving says of the former country, "Its every stone is a chronicle."
The remark is true, applied, as he meant it to be, to our older cities with their ancient edifices and defenses. But, belonging to a yet remoter past, are the remains of Roman and Celtic arts and architecture; and in the pile-dwellings of our lakes and peat-beds we have relics of the Stone and Bronze eras, the beginnings of which lie beyond the reach of even tradition.
Nor is the limit yet attained. Thanks to the discoveries of the past few decades, we trace the existence of man back to a point antedating our earliest history by we know not how many centuries. Of this time, only a few bones and rudely-wrought stones are left as the witnesses—dumb, yet eloquent, and fulfilling in their way the saying, "If men hold their peace, the very stones will cry out."
The question was long since raised, whether traces of human existence had been, or were to be, found in the sand and gravel of the Post-Tertiary or Diluvial period, which immediately preceded the present. Some affirmed the finding of such remains in these, and the contemporaneous deposits of certain caves, while most geologists rejected such statements as erroneous, or, at best, unauthenticated, plausibly urging that ancient animal and recent human remains might easily have become intermingled. And such researches were discredited and discouraged by Cuvier's magisterial dictum, that man did not exist in the Diluvial period, and that it was, therefore, vain to look for evidences of his existence.
Some twenty years ago, however, M. Boucher de Perthes discovered a quantity of rude stone implements in the diluvial gravel-beds of Abbeville, in the valley of the Somme, in intimate connection with bones of mammoths. This discovery attracting much attention, in 1858 the French Academy of Sciences sent to the spot a committee of investigation, composed, be it not forgotten, of men utterly skeptical as to the fact at issue. This committee, strengthened by the accession of several English geologists, worked long and carefully at its task, and the Academy's discussions upon its reports were earnest and thorough; yet, the result was the complete confirmation of De Perthe's reputed discoveries, and of the conclusions he had drawn therefrom. Cuvier was confuted; the existence of man in the Diluvial period was established. Similar discoveries in the open country and caves of Germany, Spain, Italy, England, Belgium, and especially France, followed in rapid succession.
We cannot mention, much less describe, all the localities in which have been found the closely-conjoined remains of man and of animals, confessedly belonging to the drift or Diluvial period. We shall discuss only a few of the many cases, of which we may safely affirm that the often easy and common mingling of ancient with recent remains could not have occurred. To do this the more intelligently, we shall speak briefly first of the characteristics and deposits of the Diluvial and later prehistoric periods, and then of the human remains therein found.
The Drift or Diluvial Deposits.—The bottom-lands of our new valleys, of the Rhine, for example, chiefly consist of widely-extended deposits of loam, sand, gravel, and rocks, evidently brought from considerable distances by some vast current that once covered the lowlands, and even lesser hills; for, in the Rhine Valley this surface-layer is found at elevations of 300 to 600 feet above the present river-level. The bowlders are of various rocks that are not native to this region, but are found in the Juras, the mountains of the Black Forest, the Vosges, and especially the Alps, of whose mass these constitute a large proportion. A similar drift is found over the wide, rolling country between the Juras and the Alps, and indeed over nearly all the lowlands and valleys of Europe and the world. From the erroneous, but once universal belief, that it was produced by the Noachian Deluge, or the all-submerging flood of which the Sagas of so many nations are full, this deposit was early named the diluvium, or diluvial deposit. It consists, according to this view, of the detritus from mountain ranges, transported and scattered-broadcast over lower levels by the Deluge.
This latest of geological formations rests upon the upper strata of the Tertiary, when they are present, In the Rhine Valley, however, it covers the Miocene or middle Tertiary; and in other regions, the chalk, the Jurassic, or even older formations. Upon the diluvium itself are built most of our cities, and in it will most of us be buried. The melted snows, the rains, and the waters of our streams, penetrate through its loose layers until the more impervious underlying clays (mostly Tertiary) arrest and hold them in readiness to supply our daily needs. The diluvium seldom yields much that is of mineral or industrial value, except the material of our tiles, brick, and mortar. In California, Brazil, Australia, and the Ural Mountains, however, its gravels are rich in gold, platinum, and jewels of various sorts, and in some localities tin-ores are found in it.
Geologists have been long occupied with the study of the producing causes of those vast floods, the effects of which are so strikingly seen in the pebbly plains and terraces of our river-valleys, and in the layers of sand and loam upon our uplands and hills. That there once were there masses of flowing water-currents, like, yet far vaster than, our present rivers, cannot be intelligently doubted. The absence of marine shells and the universal abundance of the remains of land-animals in the deposits in discussion forbid the belief that the sea covered our own and the adjacent continents during this latest of geological eras.
All the hypotheses advanced in explanation of the phenomena we have mentioned cannot be here adduced; we can only say that the great majority of recent geologists agree and assert that these immense streams were chiefly produced by the melting of snows and glaciers, that must then have extended not merely from the Alps and Pyrenees, as at present, but from the north, southward over a large portion of Europe; even the smaller ranges, such as the Vosges and Black Forest, then having each its glacier system.
Strongly in favor of this view are the erratic bowlders and blocks of stone, and the heaps and ridges of drift, so widely scattered over the mountains, plains, and valleys of Europe and North America, precisely similar as they are to those left by the retreat of the glaciers at the present time. And then, as now happens, the melting of floating icebergs, that were detached from the foot of glaciers as they reached the coast, strewed the ocean-bed with stones, gravel, and mud. The wide plains of Northern Germany are abundant in rocks and gravel from Scandinavia and Finland, for example. Our surface-deposits, therefore, are simply the detritus and débris of mountain-regions, transported thence by glaciers, and spread over our lower levels by the rivers that the melting of these glaciers produced.
This theory was first definitely propounded by Venetz, and has since been developed and verified by Charpentier, Agassiz, Forbes, and many others. Many geologists have opposed it from the first, but it may now be regarded as of practically universal acceptance, and as gaining constant confirmation from the immense number of facts annually observed and published.
The glacial theory implies the former prevalence in Europe and North America of a climate marked by much snow and rain, as well as ice; and this is confirmed by the characteristics of the fauna and flora of the time. In addition to the waters produced by the melting of glacial masses then covering so large a portion of the Northern Hemisphere, the very great rainfall incident to such a climate would swell the volume of the great currents of the period—currents not of transient flow like mere mountain-torrents, or our local freshets, but that swept on for centuries or millenniums. Minor additional inundations, also, would result from risings and subsidences of the earth's surface in given localities, from the damming of the waters in the valleys by glaciers and avalanches, from the sudden emptying of mountain-lakes thus formed, and possibly from earthquakes. It is to these various causes that we may attribute the washing out of the lower terraces of our present river-valleys.
The great currents by which we explain the various phenomena of the drift are due to the glaciers of this Ice period, then; and this suggests the further question, What produced the Ice period itself, the long-prevailing low temperature of regions now warm or temperate? A vast array of observations commends to the attention the following answer:
There was then a distribution of land and water upon the earth very different from the present, and, as the result of it, a different system and direction to the currents of the sea and air. And there are influences by which the climate of a given region is vastly controlled; that is, it is to the warmth of the waters of the Gulf Stream that the present mildness of the climate of the, islands and coast-countries of Northern Europe is owing.
Adhemar has not been without followers, indeed, in the attempt to prove that the low temperature of the Ice period was due to astronomical rather than terrestrial causes—namely, to the change, in periods of 21,000 years, of the obliquity of the earth's axis to its orbit, and the still slower change in the eccentricity of that orbit itself. From the coöperation of these two causes, it is said the winters of either hemisphere would become longer and the summers shorter, and vice versa; and so on, in alternate periods. For example, the earth's axis reached the position most favorable to the climate of the Northern Hemisphere in a. d. 1248, since which time we have been advancing toward a new Ice period; whereas, antarctic regions then passed the point of greatest intensity of cold. Even the relative distribution of land and sea, it is affirmed, would be changed by these alternating accumulations and diminutions at either pole. To all this, we can here merely reply that if these astronomical facts have any influence whatever upon the earth's climate, we are wholly ignorant as to its amount; and since Herschel's time astronomers have been disinclined to ascribe to them any considerable share in the production of climatic variations.
But there is abundant evidence that during the Drift period there took place extensive and considerable elevations and subsidences of the earth's surface. Such elevations are still going on, as witness the rise of the coast-terraces of Scotland, Sweden, Norway, Sardinia, Sicily, and other lands, to a height far above the present sea-level. Confusion here is easy, however, and it must not be forgotten that the retreat of the shore-line would be apparently and practically an emergence of the land, although the latter remained fixed all the time; and curiously, apparent encroachments of the sea upon the shore may be an actual subsidence of the shore itself.
A study of the drift deposits, and the organic remains found therein, compels the belief that at one part of that period the lowlands of Europe—i. e., Holland, the plains of Northern Germany, and parts of Russia, Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway—were covered by the North and Baltic Seas, which, thus united and enlarged, extended southward through Russia and Siberia, and possibly connected the Black and Caspian Seas. The Desert of Sahara was also under water, as Desor and Escher show. The shells of marine species yet mostly extant, now found in the extensive lowlands of North America, show these also to have been submerged.
In an earlier epoch of the Diluvial period, however, that is, previous to the time of the above-mentioned submergence of so much of Europe, the countries mentioned were so high above the sea-level of the time that the bottom not only of the Straits of Dover but of a large portion of the North and Baltic Seas was dry ground. These waters have a depth even now of only some 200 feet—rarely of 250 feet—so that an elevation geologically very slight would expose the bottom of these shallow seas. So Ireland was then connected with Great Britain, and the latter with France; While Africa and Europe were joined by bridges of land, so to speak, e. g., by way of Gibraltar, and again by way of Sicily and Malta. As a natural result and confirmation of the latter instance, we find on these islands and the contiguous main-lands the remains of mammals peculiarly African, especially certain species of elephants. These strips of dry land divided the Mediterranean into several inland seas. If man existed in that remote epoch, as many arguments tend to prove, he could cross dry-shod between Africa and Europe, as did the animals just mentioned, and was a witness of a distribution of land and water in Europe and adjacent lands widely different from that of our day. There was also going on about him and beneath his feet the slow rising and sinking of vast continental and insular territories—processes requiring thousands of years for their accomplishment—and, if man's existence during them be admitted, constituting another proof of the great antiquity of the race.
It is to these slowly-effected but most important alterations in both the contour and relief of the surface that we must ascribe the great changes of the climate, not alone of separate localities, but of entire continents; and this conclusion we will finally use in explanation of the varied phenomena of the Ice period, with which we have specially to do. The Ice period, we have said; but, without attaching much importance to the astronomical influences previously mentioned, we are compelled to believe in a succession of Ice periods, the evidences of which are believed to be furnished in the several series of deposits that are assigned to corresponding epochs.
During the latter portion of the Diluvial period the earth acquired substantially the same relief as it has at present. The chief mountain-ranges, the Juras, the Vosges, the Black Forest, the Pyrenees, the Alps, etc., were then about what they are now, though somewhat higher relatively both to the sea-level and to the subjacent plains; for, by the operation of various natural forces, peak after peak has been either shattered and cast down, or slowly worn away, and their débris, carried down in the form of sand, gravel, or larger masses, have gradually but considerably raised the level of the valleys and plains.
We now proceed to consider the several subdivisions of the Diluvial and the Post-diluvial but prehistoric periods, and the traces of human existence belonging to each.
1. The Age of Mammoths.—The loëss, the layer of calcareous loam, sand, and gravel, with which our hills are covered, is full of the shells of small land-snails, mostly extinct in this region, though yet extant in high mountain-regions. So abundant are they as to give to this soil the popular name of "snail-shell soil." The preservation of animal and vegetable remains in the gravelly deposits of our lowlands is naturally rare, comparatively, they being, for the most part, soon destroyed in beds so loose and permeable by air and water. And yet in Germany, France, Belgium, England, Switzerland, and other parts of Europe, there are found, in this very formation, the bones and teeth of mammals, mostly of long-extinct species, the nearest congeners of which are now native either to Africa and Asia, or else to the colder parts of Northern Europe and America, and the higher Alps and Pyrenees. Bones of these same species, and hence of the same geological era, are found in numerous caves as well; some species, indeed, being almost wholly thus preserved. Among the better known of these caves we may cite those of the Suabian and Franconian Juras, and the Gailenreuther Cave, from which nearly every important cabinet of Europe has been enriched.
Prominent among the buried mammals of the drift are the mammoth (Elephas primogenius), the immense teeth and tusks of which are so often exposed by our river-currents, and during excavations for buildings, besides the many entire carcasses found in the ice and frozen soil of Siberia. In many of these latter cases, the skin, the hair proper, a reddish-brown, long, hairy wool, and a mane still longer, are kept in perfect preservation. The latest discovered of these was visited by the naturalist Schmidt, but the wild beasts had anticipated his comings and devoured most of the flesh. Middendorf estimates the number found in that region at several thousands. Their tusks—considerably curved, and eight to ten feet in length—are in quantities still sufficient to be the staple of a not inconsiderable trade in ivory. Brandt believes the mammoth to have been somewhat larger than the East Indian elephant of to-day, with tusks of much greater curvature.
Next in size to the mammoth was a rhinoceros, characterized by two horns and an osseous nasal septum (Rhinoceros tichorhinus). Its teeth are often met with, and, some fifteen years ago, an almost entire and perfectly preserved carcass was found in the ice on the river Wilni in Siberia.
Equally abundant with the remains of these two are those of the cave-bear (Ursus spelœus), which was about the match in size of the polar bear. It is found in the drift of the open country, and in the caves of the same age.
The peat-beds of Ireland yield entire skeletons of the giant-elk (Cervus ungaceros or C. Hibernicus), the ten or twelve foot span of whose antlers must have put him to great disadvantage, and so proved one of the causes of his extinction.
Then comes the primitive ox (Bos primogenius), generally regarded as the progenitor of our present race of cattle, and found running wild in the forests of Germany as late as Cæsar's time.
The hippopotamus, found mostly in Italy and the south of France, is more rare. It is clearly allied to the species that now inhabit the tropics.
Remains of the cave-tiger or cave-lion (Felis spelæa) have recently been found in various localities, though formerly but rarely.
Very significant as to the climate of Europe in this age is the presence of such species as the reindeer, musk-ox, and lemming, which now inhabit only high northern latitudes, and of other species which are now peculiar to the moister heights of the Alps, e. g., the chamois, mountain-goat, and marmot. These were all once native to our plains and uplands.
The North American and European mammals of this period are very nearly identical. In place of and sometimes in addition to the mammoth, however, America had the equally immense mastodon (Mastodon giganteus or Ohioticus). Six almost perfect skeletons of it were discovered in Warren County, in Western New York, in 1845. Their rude study of its remains suggested to the North American Indians the name of "Father of Buffaloes." The entire genus is wanting in the Diluvium of Europe, though several of its smaller species are represented in the Tertiary.
So far as is yet known, these are the most important contemporaries of primeval man in Europe. They are his competitors and enemies in the "struggle for existence," to meet which he must needs have had all his powers of body and of mind.
Now, it is important to remember that we find both these extinct animals' remains and man's bones and implements in the same deposits and caves of the Diluvial period; that is, that these animal and these human relics were contemporaneous, first as to their deposition, and secondly as to then-unearthing and exposure to our observation. And how rapidly one such discovery follows another may be partly inferred from the fact that some years since a magazine was founded in Paris, devoted to this special topic; many courses of lectures upon it were delivered in the various cities of Europe; and for some years international congresses have been annually held, and societies and periodicals established, for the discussion of it and cognate subjects. The literature of the subject is already voluminous.
Let us revert to M. Boucher de Perthes's discoveries in the drift of the Somme Valley. Begun in 1841, they were described by him in a work published in 1847—a work then too little appreciated. But when, in 1858, and in the same locality, he discovered a human skull and various stone implements, in intimate association with remains of the various animals of that period, the attention of the French Academy was aroused, and the study of historical geology received a new impetus. Some, indeed, see in the discovery of De Perthes only a cheat, or at best a mistake, and doubt the antiquity of this skull and its contemporaneousness with the animals found with it. The entire collection is proved to be of the same age, however, by the whole manner of the intermingling of human skulls, flint knives of unmistakable human workmanship, and animal remains; and the genuineness of De Perthes's discoveries and the validity of the inferences drawn from them are confirmed by many similar ones made since then in localities widely separated, both from that in which he worked and from each other.
What we said of the preservation of animal remains we repeat as applicable, in an even higher degree, to that of human remains, in débris so found; it is possible only as the result of a conjunction of favoring circumstances that must be comparatively very rare. And yet many such instances are on record. As early as 1825, Ami Boul, from the loess of the Lahr region in the Breisgau, discovered a human skeleton, and two years afterward a human skull, with bones of the mammoth and other diluvial animals, from the loess at Eguisheim, near Colmar. The study of the deposit in which the latter of these two discoveries was made, with the relative positions of the remains themselves, and the chemical analyses of them by Dr. Scheurer-Kestner, of Thann, leave no room for doubt that the man and the animals were synchronous, both in life and in the deposition of their remains.
And many localities yield human bones and implements mingled with remains of diluvial animals, especially of the mammoth, the rhinoceros of the species previously described, and the cave-bear. Especially rich in these combined relics are caves of Lenu and Sombrive, in the department of Ariége, France, and of Engihoul and Engis, near Lüttich (Liège), Belgium. The contents of the latter two caves were described by Schmerling, in his admirable but neglected works, some thirty-five years ago.
The Neanderthal cave has become celebrated. An entire human skeleton of good size and proportions, save its ape-like, low-browed skull, was discovered here in 1856, a full account of which was given by Dr. Fuhlrott. This discovery, since become the occasion of so much discussion, indicates quite clearly the existence in that remote period of a race of men of marked characteristics, and in some peculiarities closely resembling certain now-living Australian tribes. The skull is not nearly of so high a type as that from the Engis cave just mentioned.
Of exceptional interest, also, is the burial-place at Aurignac, in the department of Haute-Garonne, in Southern France. It was accidentally discovered in 1852, but first scientifically described in 1861, by Lartet. There, in a cave closed by a vertical slab of stone, which was itself hidden by accumulated stone fragments dropped from the cliff above, were found no less than seventeen human skeletons, mingled with bones of the cave-bear, cave-lion, mammoth, rhinoceros, giant-elk, and other now-extinct diluvial animals, weapons of wrought-flint and implements of bone, stag's-horn, and ivory articles probably buried with the dead for use in the life beyond the grave; in the belief of which Sir Charles Lyell, in his work on the "Antiquity of Man," quotes as pertinent the well-known lines from Schiller's "Nadowessian Death-Song:"
The last lament be said:
Let all that pleased, and yet may please,
Be buried with the dead.
"Beneath his head the hatchet hide
That he so stoutly swung:
And place the bear's fat haunch beside—
The journey hence is long.
"And let the knife new sharpened be,
That, on the battle-day,
Shore with quick strokes—he took but three—
The foeman's scalp away!"
In exact agreement with one of these lines, the thigh-bones of the cave-bear were actually found laid beside some of the skeletons of this cave. Not a trace of pottery was found here. Under the débris mentioned as lying just outside of the door of the cave were ashes, charcoal, and bones of the species found inside, all suggestive of the notion that the funeral-feast may have been here celebrated. This heap contained bones of other yet extant animals also, viz., the aurochs, reindeer, and stag.
Most of the human relics of any sort have been found in the more recent layers of the drift. They have been discovered, however, not only in the older drift, but also, though very rarely, in the underlying Tertiary. For instance, in the upper Pliocene at St.-Prest, near Chartres, were found stone implements and cuttings on bone, in connection with relics of a long-extinct elephant (Elephas meridionalis) that is wholly lacking in the drift. During the past two years the evidences of human existence in the Tertiary period—i. e., previous to the age of mammoths of the Diluvial period—have multiplied, and by their multiplication give cumulative confirmation to each other. Even in the lower strata of the Miocene (the middle Tertiary) important discoveries of stone knives and bone-cuttings have been made, as at Thenay, department of Marne-et-Loire, and Billy, department of Allier, France. Prof. J. D. Whitney, the eminent State geologist of California, reports similar discoveries there also. So, then, we may believe that before the last great upheaval of the Alps and Pyrenees, and while the yet luxuriant vegetation of the then (i. e.,in the Tertiary period) paradisaic climate yet adorned Central Europe, man inhabited this region.
Such discoveries relegate the beginning of human life to a time the remoteness of which is to be estimated not by years, but by millenniums. It is of course difficult to even approximate to a date so distant, but there is reason to believe it must have been at least 50,000 years ago. Even the Indian, Persian, Assyrian, and Egyptian civilizations, with their languages, literatures, and architectural monuments, required a long, long time for their development from their rude beginnings, and hence a far longer time for the whole lifetime of that race. For a people remains a long time in its primitive condition, and its first progress is very slow, as the savage and semi-savage races of today prove to us. But the progress of a people well endowed being begun, it advances with giant strides, at a rate increasing in geometrical ratio.
It were vain to draw positive or detailed conclusions as to the grade of culture attained by the man of the Diluvial period from the comparatively few relics of his life as yet found in the drift and caves. These data are yet too few, slight, and disconnected, for that. For instance, while some of the skulls (that from the Neanderthal especially) indicate an ape-like race, of short stature, others are of a type far higher, and scarcely differing from those of European tribes yet living.
A human jaw-bone, of remarkable cast, was lately taken from the Trou de la Nanlette, a cave on the river Lesse, near Dinant, during excavations conducted by M. Edouard Dupont, under the auspices of the Belgian Government. The dental structure is a striking mean between the ordinary human type and that of the ape. Other Belgian and French caves have yielded similar remains, while on the other hand the remains of an ape (Dryopithecus fontani), with a dental structure strikingly anthropoid, were found in the upper Miocene beds of the Tertiary at Sansans, department of Gers, in Southern France. In the Trou de la Nanlette long bones of animals in many instances were split longitudinally, for the easy extraction of the marrow. They thus become interesting as early traits of human industry and habits. From the remains as yet found we infer the existence in Europe of a race originally rather ape-like, but progressing toward a build and culture in the complete sense human.
And this is in perfect consonance with the general progress of organic life during the long marches of the various geological eras. The present is thus the era of the highest types. We are still told by many, however, that although every thing in Nature—stone, plant, animal—is stamped with tokens of the law and proofs of the fact of gradual development, man, though equally with them a link in the chain of being—man, forsooth, must have come from the hand of his Creator immediately, and perfect from the first.
But let us not draw, from facts as yet comparatively few and very scattered, conclusions which the very first new discovery may reverse. And seeing how few are the human remains yet found in these ancient layers, it is not strange that many hesitate to follow those who already extend the principles of the Darwinian hypothesis to man, and find our very own brethren in the anthropoid apes—brethren sprung from a common ancestry, but immeasurably outstripped by us in the long, long course of a development begun in a previous geological era. But those who accept Darwinism as applied to the animal and vegetable kingdoms, implying as that theory does the progress of organic life from low to higher, from simple to more complex forms and functions—these can hardly resist the conclusion that man also, as to his physical part at least, is but a highly-developed member of the animal kingdom. And, so far as they go, the data of geology favor that view.
Although the anthropoid apes resemble man in structure more closely than they resemble their lower congeners, still the lowest men are far superior, in mental character at least, to these highest apes. And we insist that it is a legitimate subject of inquiry whether the wide chasm now separating the highest apes from the lowest men has existed from the beginning, or whether the spiritual powers of the latter have been developed from the rude beginnings of intellectuality in the former.
The indications are that the primeval man of Europe and his nearer descendants were of short stature. The popular notion, that the present generation is physically weaker and smaller than the primitive or ancient, is not only utterly unfounded, but there is abundant evidence that the reverse is true. Most of us would be amazed if not shocked at a true and life-size portrait of the real Eve, "mother of all living." We often hear, indeed, of giants' bones here and there dug up, but intelligent examination invariably proves them to have belonged to the mammoth or other animal. A singular blunder of the kind shows the real value of such reputed discoveries. Years ago, a skeleton was dug from the calcareous shale at Oeningen, which the veteran savant Scheuchzer confidently christened "Homo diluvii testis"—the man who saw the flood. Casts of it were made for various museums, and, in full faith in the legitimacy of the name, one Deacon Müller was moved to write some most pious and edifying lines about it. Unfortunately, the first competent study of the skeleton proved it to be that—not of an ancient sinner, but of a large salamander, closely resembling the Giant Salamander of Japan. Yet, to this day, every casually unearthed petrifaction, found no matter where or in what relations, is to many a memorial of the Noachian Deluge. Thus, theories which science has long ago refuted and dismissed from further consideration, are persistently held fast and reaffirmed.
If we are to attain even an approximate notion of the grade of culture reached by what we must provisionally regard as the autochthonic, primitive man of Europe, we must infer it from the yet preserved works of his hands rather than from the lamentably few osseous remains yet found with them. He had various articles of bone and horn, clubs and slings, and knives and spear-heads, some of which were long and slender, some short and round, chipped into shape out of flint and jasper. He had no pottery as yet, and no wrought metals. He split the longer bones of animals used as food, the better to get at the marrow; and this was not only eaten, but probably then, as by many savage races at present, employed as an unguent also. The domestication of animals was evidently not yet begun—even the horse being used neither for draught nor for carrying. That primitive race contented itself with the wild products of the forest, the chase, and the waters, as to food, and for dwellings used caves, generally in cliffs difficult of access and easy of defense, like those on the river Lesse, near Namur.
We are to picture to ourselves, then, a people very like the Esquimaux in circumstances and activities. It lived in our own Europe, but Europe covered to a considerable extent with glaciers, and keeping up a hard and continuous resistance both to wild beasts and the rigors of a climate at once very cold and very damp. The mammoth and rhinoceros, as we have seen, were protected by thick, woolly hair, and fed upon the twigs of the abundant conifers, as fragments yet found in the interstices of the teeth and ribs show. We must not be misled as to the then climate of Europe by thinking of that of the present habitat of the elephant and rhinoceros. Even now the Bengal tiger traverses Asia as far north as latitude 52°, and the lion and tiger are frequently met with when snow and ice are present.
The tools and weapons of the man of this age were simple indeed, but no mean skill was employed in their manufacture and use. Even with our many and marvelous inventions, one of us, cast away upon some uninhabited shore, could hardly manifest more self-helpfulness. And the manner in which the dead were buried—one of the common modes of expressing a race's faith in a future life—shows the possession of some degree of spiritual development.
Such are "the earliest traces of man in Europe," the slight, sparse indications of his existence in the Tertiary or next preceding formation excepted. These traces of man in the Diluvium belong to the period geologically the most recent indeed, yet even it is separated from our own time by a gulf of many thousands of years. The rhinoceros, primitive ox, giant-elk (Megaceros Hibernicus), and cave-bear, are prominent among the contemporaries of this primitive man, but the characteristic animal of the time was the mammoth. Hence the name of the first age of Man the—"Age of Mammoths."
We will vainly seek in this earliest man for evidences of that creaturely perfectness which, according to the common view, he must have inherited from his first parents in paradise—the charming paradise of Genesis, of art, and of poetry. For the geologist, the fruits of the truly paradisaic epoch grew in a far remoter past, when Europe was adorned with the palm and cinnamon-tree, and all the exuberant vegetation of the middle Tertiary period, whence our peat-beds are formed; when, instead of man, the ape, or possibly a man not much superior to the ape, stood at the head of God's earthly creatures.
Having answered the question as to man's first traces in Europe, we might now bring our treatise to a close. But, to gain an adequate notion of the antiquity of our race, and of its progress during the successive ages, we proceed to a cursory review of the succeeding eras of prehistoric human existence.
- Prof. Oswald Heer has given, in his "Urwelt der Schweiz," a description, at once scientific and entertaining, of the Swiss fauna and flora of the Drift period. In his valuable studies upon the diluvial flora, Count Gaston de Saporta concludes in favor of a climate in this period marked rather by extreme moisture than by extreme cold.
- The scientific reader need not be informed that though Adhemar is not followed as to all details, many of the best modern (especially English) scientists agree in ascribing a prominent influence to these astronomical factors in the production of climate.—Translator.
- The reference is to the author's own picture of the Upper Rhine Valley, of course.—Translator.
- Dana ("Manual of Geology," American edition of 1863, page 561) mentions a similar discovery in 1772, in the same locality. This species of the rhinoceros, like the mammoth, was protected by long, woolly hair.—Trans.
- The most recent studies ally it rather to the tiger than to the lion family.
- The Lapland or Norwegian marmot (Myodes lemmus and M. torquatus.)—Trans.
- The author has fallen into confusion, certainly, as to localities, and probably as to facts: 1. Warren County, New York, is in the east-northeast part of the State; 2. I have searched vainly for mention of precisely such a discovery as the text describes. In 1844, and in Warren County, New Jersey, was found the skeleton of the young female mastodon now at Cambridge, Mass., with the skulls of four others.
Three perfect skeletons were afterward dug from swamps near Newburg, New York, and described by Dr. Warren in his splendid work, "The Mastodon Giganteus of North America," (second edition, Boston, 4to, 1855). These are the richest "finds" of which I have been able to find any account.
On the distinction between the mammoth and the mastodon, and their several species, characteristics, remains, and place in paleontology, and Indian legends, see a capital article in the American Naturalist" vol. ii., pp. 23, et seq.—Trans.
- Matériaux pour servir a l'histoire de l'homme.
- Elaborately described by Dr. Fandel, of Colmar.
- Near Hochdal, a village on the railroad between Düsseldorf and Elberfeld.—Trans.
- Lyell gives the date 1857.—Trans.
- I have given Sir E. L. Bulwer's version.—Trans.
- Or Lithuanian bison. A few living specimens of, this animal are carefully preserved by the Emperor of Russia.—Trans.
- Our own papers often tell us of bones or skeletons of men who must have been eight or ten feet in height, but in each case a tape-line and a little knowledge of anatomy reduce them to ordinary proportions.—Trans.