HotFreeBooks.com
Anthropology
by Robert Marett
1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

HOME UNIVERSITY LIBRARY OF MODERN KNOWLEDGE No. 37

Editors: HERBERT FISHER, M.A., F.B.A. PROF. GILBERT MURRAY, LITT.D., LL.D., F.B.A. PROF. J. ARTHUR THOMSON, M.A. PROF. WILLIAM T. BREWSTER, M.A.

A complete classified list of the volumes of THE HOME UNIVERSITY LIBRARY already published will be found at the end of this book.



ANTHROPOLOGY

BY R.R. MARETT, M.A.

READER IN SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD AUTHOR OF "THE THRESHOLD OF RELIGION," ETC.



NEW YORK HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY

LONDON WILLIAMS AND NORGATE



CONTENTS

CHAP. PAGE I SCOPE OF ANTHROPOLOGY . . . 7

II ANTIQUITY OF MAN . . . . . 30

III RACE . . . . . . . . . . . 59

IV ENVIRONMENT . . . . . . . . 94

V LANGUAGE . . . . . . . . . 130

VI SOCIAL ORGANIZATION . . . . 152

VII LAW . . . . . . . . . . . . 181

VIII RELIGION . . . . . . . . . 204

IX MORALITY . . . . . . . . . 235

X MAN THE INDIVIDUAL . . . . 241

BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . 251

INDEX . . . . . . . . . . . 254



"Bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, are these half-brutish prehistoric brothers. Girdled about with the immense darkness of this mysterious universe even as we are, they were born and died, suffered and struggled. Given over to fearful crime and passion, plunged in the blackest ignorance, preyed upon by hideous and grotesque delusions, yet steadfastly serving the profoundest of ideals in their fixed faith that existence in any form is better than non-existence, they ever rescued triumphantly from the jaws of ever-imminent destruction the torch of life which, thanks to them, now lights the world for us. How small, indeed, seem individual distinctions when we look back on these overwhelming numbers of human beings panting and straining under the pressure of that vital want! And how inessential in the eyes of God must be the small surplus of the individual's merit, swamped as it is in the vast ocean of the common merit of mankind, dumbly and undauntedly doing the fundamental duty, and living the heroic life! We grow humble and reverent as we contemplate the prodigious spectacle."

WILLIAM JAMES, in Human Immortality.



ANTHROPOLOGY



CHAPTER I SCOPE OF ANTHROPOLOGY

In this chapter I propose to say something, firstly, about the ideal scope of anthropology; secondly, about its ideal limitations; and, thirdly and lastly, about its actual relations to existing studies. In other words, I shall examine the extent of its claim, and then go on to examine how that claim, under modern conditions of science and education, is to be made good.

Firstly, then, what is the ideal scope of anthropology? Taken at its fullest and best, what ought it to comprise?

Anthropology is the whole history of man as fired and pervaded by the idea of evolution. Man in evolution—that is the subject in its full reach. Anthropology studies man as he occurs at all known times. It studies him as he occurs in all known parts of the world. It studies him body and soul together—as a bodily organism, subject to conditions operating in time and space, which bodily organism is in intimate relation with a soul-life, also subject to those same conditions. Having an eye to such conditions from first to last, it seeks to plot out the general series of the changes, bodily and mental together, undergone by man in the course of his history. Its business is simply to describe. But, without exceeding the limits of its scope, it can and must proceed from the particular to the general; aiming at nothing less than a descriptive formula that shall sum up the whole series of changes in which the evolution of man consists.

That will do, perhaps, as a short account of the ideal scope of anthropology. Being short, it is bound to be rather formal and colourless. To put some body into it, however, it is necessary to breathe but a single word. That word is: Darwin.

Anthropology is the child of Darwin. Darwinism makes it possible. Reject the Darwinian point of view, and you must reject anthropology also. What, then, is Darwinism? Not a cut-and-dried doctrine. Not a dogma. Darwinism is a working hypothesis. You suppose something to be true, and work away to see whether, in the light of that supposed truth, certain facts fit together better than they do on any other supposition. What is the truth that Darwinism supposes? Simply that all the forms of life in the world are related together; and that the relations manifested in time and space between the different lives are sufficiently uniform to be described under a general formula, or law of evolution.

This means that man must, for certain purposes of science, toe the line with the rest of living things. And at first, naturally enough, man did not like it. He was too lordly. For a long time, therefore, he pretended to be fighting for the Bible, when he was really fighting for his own dignity. This was rather hard on the Bible, which has nothing to do with the Aristotelian theory of the fixity of species; though it might seem possible to read back something of the kind into the primitive creation-stories preserved in Genesis. Now-a-days, however, we have mostly got over the first shock to our family pride. We are all Darwinians in a passive kind of way. But we need to darwinize actively. In the sciences that have to do with plants, and with the rest of the animals besides man, naturalists have been so active in their darwinizing that the pre-Darwinian stuff is once for all laid by on the shelf. When man, however, engages on the subject of his noble self, the tendency still is to say: We accept Darwinism so long as it is not allowed to count, so long as we may go on believing the same old stuff in the same old way.

How do we anthropologists propose to combat this tendency? By working away at our subject, and persuading people to have a look at our results. Once people take up anthropology, they may be trusted not to drop it again. It is like learning to sleep with your window open. What could be more stupefying than to shut yourself up in a closet and swallow your own gas? But is it any less stupefying to shut yourself up within the last few thousand years of the history of your own corner of the world, and suck in the stale atmosphere of its own self-generated prejudices? Or, to vary the metaphor, anthropology is like travel. Every one starts by thinking that there is nothing so perfect as his own parish. But let a man go aboard ship to visit foreign parts, and, when he returns home, he will cause that parish to wake up.

With Darwin, then, we anthropologists say: Let any and every portion of human history be studied in the light of the whole history of mankind, and against the background of the history of living things in general. It is the Darwinian outlook that matters. None of Darwin's particular doctrines will necessarily endure the test of time and trial. Into the melting-pot must they go as often as any man of science deems it fitting. But Darwinism as the touch of nature that makes the whole world kin can hardly pass away. At any rate, anthropology stands or falls with the working hypothesis, derived from Darwinism, of a fundamental kinship and continuity amid change between all the forms of human life.

It remains to add that, hitherto, anthropology has devoted most of its attention to the peoples of rude—that is to say, of simple—culture, who are vulgarly known to us as "savages." The main reason for this, I suppose, is that nobody much minds so long as the darwinizing kind of history confines itself to outsiders. Only when it is applied to self and friends is it resented as an impertinence. But, although it has always up to now pursued the line of least resistance, anthropology does not abate one jot or tittle of its claim to be the whole science, in the sense of the whole history, of man. As regards the word, call it science, or history, or anthropology, or anything else—what does it matter? As regards the thing, however, there can be no compromise. We anthropologists are out to secure this: that there shall not be one kind of history for savages and another kind for ourselves, but the same kind of history, with the same evolutionary principle running right through it, for all men, civilized and savage, present and past.

* * * * *

So much for the ideal scope of anthropology. Now, in the second place, for its ideal limitations. Here, I am afraid, we must touch for a moment on very deep and difficult questions. But it is well worth while to try at all costs to get firm hold of the fact that anthropology, though a big thing, is not everything.

It will be enough to insist briefly on the following points: that anthropology is science in whatever way history is science; that it is not philosophy, though it must conform to its needs; and that it is not policy, though it may subserve its designs.

Anthropology is science in the sense of specialized research that aims at truth for truth's sake. Knowing by parts is science, knowing the whole as a whole is philosophy. Each supports the other, and there is no profit in asking which of the two should come first. One is aware of the universe as the whole universe, however much one may be resolved to study its details one at a time. The scientific mood, however, is uppermost when one says: Here is a particular lot of things that seem to hang together in a particular way; let us try to get a general idea of what that way is. Anthropology, then, specializes on the particular group of human beings, which itself is part of the larger particular group of living beings. Inasmuch as it takes over the evolutionary principle from the science dealing with the larger group, namely biology, anthropology may be regarded as a branch of biology. Let it be added, however, that, of all the branches of biology, it is the one that is likely to bring us nearest to the true meaning of life; because the life of human beings must always be nearer to human students of life than, say, the life of plants.

But, you will perhaps object, anthropology was previously identified with history, and now it is identified with science, namely, with a branch of biology? Is history science? The answer is, Yes. I know that a great many people who call themselves historians say that it is not, apparently on the ground that, when it comes to writing history, truth for truth's sake is apt to bring out the wrong results. Well, the doctored sort of history is not science, nor anthropology, I am ready to admit. But now let us listen to another and a more serious objection to the claim of history to be science. Science, it will be said by many earnest men of science, aims at discovering laws that are clean out of time. History, on the other hand, aims at no more than the generalized description of one or another phase of a time-process. To this it may be replied that physics, and physics only, answers to this altogether too narrow conception of science. The laws of matter in motion are, or seem to be, of the timeless or mathematical kind. Directly we pass on to biology, however, laws of this kind are not to be discovered, or at any rate are not discovered. Biology deals with life, or, if you like, with matter as living. Matter moves. Life evolves. We have entered a new dimension of existence. The laws of matter in motion are not abrogated, for the simple reason that in physics one makes abstraction of life, or in other words leaves its peculiar effects entirely out of account. But they are transcended. They are multiplied by x, an unknown quantity. This being so from the standpoint of pure physics, biology takes up the tale afresh, and devises means of its own for describing the particular ways in which things hang together in virtue of their being alive. And biology finds that it cannot conveniently abstract away the reference to time. It cannot treat living things as machines. What does it do, then? It takes the form of history. It states that certain things have changed in certain ways, and goes on to show, so far as it can, that the changes are on the whole in a certain direction. In short, it formulates tendencies, and these are its only laws. Some tendencies, of course, appear to be more enduring than others, and thus may be thought to approximate more closely to laws of the timeless kind. But x, the unknown quantity, the something or other that is not physical, runs through them all, however much or little they may seem to endure. For science, at any rate, which departmentalizes the world, and studies it bit by bit, there is no getting over the fact that living beings in general, and human beings in particular, are subject to an evolution which is simple matter of history.

And now what about philosophy? I am not going into philosophical questions here. For that reason I am not going to describe biology as natural history, or anthropology as the natural history of man. Let philosophers discuss what "nature" is going to mean for them. In science the word is question-begging; and the only sound rule in science is to beg as few philosophical questions as you possibly can. Everything in the world is natural, of course, in the sense that things are somehow all akin—all of a piece. We are simply bound to take in the parts as parts of a whole, and it is just this fact that makes philosophy not only possible but inevitable. All the same, this fact does not prevent the parts from having their own specific natures and specific ways of behaving. The people who identify the natural with the physical are putting all their money on one specific kind of nature or behaviour that is to be found in the world. In the case of man they are backing the wrong horse. The horse to back is the horse that goes. As a going concern, however, anthropology, as part of evolutionary biology, is a history of vital tendencies which are not natural in the sense of merely physical.

What are the functions of philosophy as contrasted with science? Two. Firstly, it must be critical. It must police the city of the sciences, preventing them from interfering with each other's rights and free development. Co-operation by all means, as, for instance, between anthropology and biology. But no jumping other folks' claims and laying down the law for all; as, for instance, when physics would impose the kind of method applicable to machines on the sciences of evolving life. Secondly, philosophy must be synthetic. It must put all the ways of knowing together, and likewise put these in their entirety together with all the ways of feeling and acting; so that there may result a theory of reality and of the good life, in that organic interdependence of the two which our very effort to put things together presupposes as its object.

What, then, are to be the relations between anthropology and philosophy? On the one hand, the question whether anthropology can help philosophy need not concern us here. That is for the philosopher to determine. On the other hand, philosophy can help anthropology in two ways: in its critical capacity, by helping it to guard its own claim, and develop freely without interference from outsiders; and in its synthetic capacity, perhaps, by suggesting the rule that, of two types of explanation, for instance, the physical and the biological, the more abstract is likely to be farther away from the whole truth, whereas, contrariwise, the more you take in, the better your chance of really understanding.

It remains to speak about policy. I use this term to mean any and all practical exploitation of the results of science. Sometimes, indeed, it is hard to say where science ends and policy begins, as we saw in the case of those gentlemen who would doctor their history, because practically it pays to have a good conceit of ourselves, and believe that our side always wins its battles. Anthropology, however, would borrow something besides the evolutionary principle from biology, namely, its disinterestedness. It is not hard to be candid about bees and ants; unless, indeed, one is making a parable of them. But as anthropologists we must try, what is so much harder, to be candid about ourselves. Let us look at ourselves as if we were so many bees and ants, not forgetting, of course, to make use of the inside information that in the case of the insects we so conspicuously lack.

This does not mean that human history, once constructed according to truth-regarding principles, should and could not be used for the practical advantage of mankind. The anthropologist, however, is not, as such, concerned with the practical employment to which his discoveries are put. At most, he may, on the strength of a conviction that truth is mighty and will prevail for human good, invite practical men to study his facts and generalizations in the hope that, by knowing mankind better, they may come to appreciate and serve it better. For instance, the administrator, who rules over savages, is almost invariably quite well-meaning, but not seldom utterly ignorant of native customs and beliefs. So, in many cases, is the missionary, another type of person in authority, whose intentions are of the best, but whose methods too often leave much to be desired. No amount of zeal will suffice, apart from scientific insight into the conditions of the practical problem. And the education is to be got by paying for it. But governments and churches, with some honourable exceptions, are still wofully disinclined to provide their probationers with the necessary special training; though it is ignorance that always proves most costly in the long run. Policy, however, including bad policy, does not come within the official cognizance of the anthropologist. Yet it is legitimate for him to hope that, just as for many years already physiological science has indirectly subserved the art of medicine, so anthropological science may indirectly, though none the less effectively, subserve an art of political and religious healing in the days to come.

* * * * *

The third and last part of this chapter will show how, under modern conditions of science and education, anthropology is to realize its programme. Hitherto, the trouble with anthropologists has been to see the wood for the trees. Even whilst attending mainly to the peoples of rude culture, they have heaped together facts enough to bewilder both themselves and their readers. The time has come to do some sorting; or rather the sorting is doing itself. All manner of groups of special students, interested in some particular side of human history, come now-a-days to the anthropologist, asking leave to borrow from his stock of facts the kind that they happen to want. Thus he, as general storekeeper, is beginning to acquire, almost unconsciously, a sense of order corresponding to the demands that are made upon him. The goods that he will need to hand out in separate batches are being gradually arranged by him on separate shelves. Our best way, then, of proceeding with the present inquiry, is to take note of these shelves. In other words, we must consider one by one the special studies that claim to have a finger in the anthropological pie.

Or, to avoid the disheartening task of reviewing an array of bloodless "-ologies," let us put the question to ourselves thus: Be it supposed that a young man or woman who wants to take a course, of at least a year's length, in the elements of anthropology, joins some university which is thoroughly in touch with the scientific activities of the day. A university, as its very name implies, ought to be an all-embracing assemblage of higher studies, so adjusted to each other that, in combination, they provide beginners with a good general education; whilst, severally, they offer to more advanced students the opportunity of doing this or that kind of specific research. In such a well-organized university, then, how would our budding anthropologist proceed to form a preliminary acquaintance with the four corners of his subject? What departments must he attend in turn? Let us draw him up a curriculum, praying meanwhile that the multiplicity of the demands made upon him will not take away his breath altogether. Man is a many-sided being; so there is no help for it if anthropology also is many-sided.

For one thing, he must sit at the feet of those whose particular concern is with pre-historic man. It is well to begin here, since thus will the glamour of the subject sink into his soul at the start. Let him, for instance, travel back in thought to the Europe of many thousands of years ago, shivering under the effects of the great ice-age, yet populous with human beings so far like ourselves that they were alive to the advantage of a good fire, made handy tools out of stone and wood and bone, painted animals on the walls of their caves, or engraved them on mammoth-ivory, far more skilfully than most of us could do now, and buried their dead in a ceremonial way that points to a belief in a future life. Thus, too, he will learn betimes how to blend the methods and materials of different branches of science. A human skull, let us say, and some bones of extinct animals, and some chipped flints are all discovered side by side some twenty feet below the level of the soil. At least four separate authorities must be called in before the parts of the puzzle can be fitted together.

Again, he must be taught something about race, or inherited breed, as it applies to man. A dose of practical anatomy—that is to say, some actual handling and measuring of the principal portions of the human frame in its leading varieties—will enable our beginner to appreciate the differences of outer form that distinguish, say, the British colonist in Australia from the native "black-fellow," or the whites from the negroes, and redskins, and yellow Asiatics in the United States. At this point, he may profitably embark on the details of the Darwinian hypothesis of the descent of man. Let him search amongst the manifold modern versions of the theory of human evolution for the one that comes nearest to explaining the degrees of physical likeness and unlikeness shown by men in general as compared with the animals, especially the man-like apes; and again, those shown by the men of divers ages and regions as compared with each other. Nor is it enough for him, when thus engaged, to take note simply of physical features—the shape of the skull, the colour of the skin, the tint and texture of the hair, and so on. There are likewise mental characters that seem to be bound up closely with the organism and to follow the breed. Such are the so-called instincts, the study of which should be helped out by excursions into the mind-history of animals, of children, and of the insane. Moreover, the measuring and testing of mental functions, and, in particular, of the senses, is now-a-days carried on by means of all sorts of ingenious instruments; and some experience of their use will be all to the good, when problems of descent are being tackled.

Further, our student must submit to a thorough grounding in world-geography with its physical and human sides welded firmly together. He must be able to pick out on the map the headquarters of all the more notable peoples, not merely as they are now, but also as they were at various outstanding moments of the past. His next business is to master the main facts about the natural conditions to which each people is subjected—the climate, the conformation of land and sea, the animals and plants. From here it is but a step to the economic life—the food-supply, the clothing, the dwelling-places, the principal occupations, the implements of labour. A selected list of books of travel must be consulted. No less important is it to work steadily through the show-cases of a good ethnological museum. Nor will it suffice to have surveyed the world by regions. The communications between regions—the migrations and conquests, the trading and the borrowing of customs—must be traced and accounted for. Finally, on the basis of their distribution, which the learner must chart out for himself on blank maps of the world, the chief varieties of the useful arts and appliances of man can be followed from stage to stage of their development.

Of the special studies concerned with man the next in order might seem to be that which deals with the various forms of human society; since, in a sense, social organization must depend directly on material circumstances. In another and perhaps a deeper sense, however, the prime condition of true sociality is something else, namely, the exclusively human gift of articulate speech. To what extent, then, must our novice pay attention to the history of language? Speculation about its far-off origins is now-a-days rather out of fashion. Moreover, language is no longer supposed to provide, by itself at any rate, and apart from other clues, a key to the endless riddles of racial descent. What is most needed, then, is rather some elementary instruction concerning the organic connection between language and thought, and concerning their joint development as viewed against the background of the general development of society. And, just as words and thoughts are essentially symbols, so there are also gesture-symbols and written symbols, whilst again another set of symbols is in use for counting. All these pre-requisites of human intercourse may be conveniently taken together.

Coming now to the analysis of the forms of society, the beginner must first of all face the problem: "What makes a people one?" Neither blood, nor territory, nor language, but only the fact of being more or less compactly organized in a political society, will be found to yield the unifying principle required. Once the primary constitution of the body politic has been made out, a limit is set up, inside of which a number of fairly definite forms of grouping offer themselves for examination; whilst outside of it various social relationships of a vaguer kind have also to be considered. Thus, amongst institutions of the internal kind, the family by itself presents a wide field of research; though in certain cases it is liable to be overshadowed by some other sort of organization, such as, notably, the clan. Under the same rubric fall the many forms of more or less voluntary association, economic, religious, and so forth. On the other hand, outside the circle of the body politic there are, at all known stages of society, mutual understandings that regulate war, trade, travel, the celebration of common rites, the interchange of ideas. Here, then, is an abundance of types of human association, to be first scrutinized separately, and afterwards considered in relation to each other.

Closely connected with the previous subject is the history of law. Every type of association, in a way, has its law, whereby its members are constrained to fulfil a certain set of obligations. Thus our student will pass on straight from the forms of society to the most essential of their functions. The fact that, amongst the less civilized peoples, the law is uncodified and merely customary, whilst the machinery for enforcing it is, though generally effective enough, yet often highly indefinite and occasional, makes the tracing of the growth of legal institutions from their rudiments no less vitally important, though it makes it none the easier. The history of authority is a strictly kindred topic. Legislating and judging on the one hand, and governing on the other, are different aspects of the same general function. In accordance, then, with the order already indicated, law and government as administered by the political society in the person of its representatives, chiefs, elders, war-lords, priest-kings, and so forth, must first be examined; then the jurisdiction and discipline of subordinate bodies, such as the family and the clan, or again the religious societies, trade guilds, and the rest; then, lastly, the international conventions, with the available means of ensuring their observance.

Again, the history of religion is an allied theme of far-reaching interest. For the understanding of the ruder forms of society it may even be said to furnish the master-key. At this stage, religion is the mainstay of law and government. The constraining force of custom makes itself felt largely through a magnifying haze of mystic sanctions; whilst, again, the position of a leader of society rests for the most part on the supernormal powers imputed to him. Religion and magic, then, must be carefully studied if we would understand how the various persons and bodies that exercise authority are assisted, or else hindered, in their efforts to maintain social discipline. Apart from this fundamental inquiry, there is another, no less important in its way, to which the study of religion and magic opens up a path. This is the problem how reflection manages as it were to double human experience, by setting up beside the outer world of sense an inner world of thought-relations. Now constructive imagination is the queen of those mental functions which meet in what we loosely term "thought"; and imagination is ever most active where, on the outer fringe of the mind's routine work, our inarticulate questionings radiate into the unknown. When the genius has his vision, almost invariably, among the ruder peoples, it is accepted by himself and his society as something supernormal and sacred, whether its fruit be an act of leadership or an edict, a practical invention or a work of art, a story of the past or a prophecy, a cure or a devastating curse. Moreover, social tradition treasures the memory of these revelations, and, blending them with the contributions of humbler folk—for all of us dream our dreams—provides in myth and legend and tale, as well as in manifold other art-forms, a stimulus to the inspiration of future generations. For most purposes fine art, at any rate during its more rudimentary stages, may be studied in connection with religion.

So far as law and religion will not account for the varieties of social behaviour, the novice may most conveniently consider them under the head of morals. The forms of social intercourse, the fashions, the festivities, are imposed on us by our fellows from without, and none the less effectively because as a general rule we fall in with them as a matter of course. The difference between manners and morals of the higher order is due simply to the more pressing need, in the case of our most serious duties, of a reflective sanction, a "moral sense," to break us in to the common service. It is no easy task to keep legal and religious penalties or rewards out of the reckoning, when trying to frame an estimate of what the notions of right and wrong, prevalent in a given society, amount to in themselves; nevertheless, it is worth doing, and valuable collections of material exist to aid the work. The facts about education, which even amongst rude peoples is often carried on far into manhood, throw much light on this problem. So do the moralizings embodied the traditional lore of the folk—the proverbs, the beast-fables, the stories of heroes.

There remains the individual to be studied in himself. If the individual be ignored by social science, as would sometimes appear to be the case, so much the worse for social science, which, to a corresponding extent, falls short of being truly anthropological. Throughout the history of man, our beginner should be on the look-out for the signs, and the effects, of personal initiative. Freedom of choice, of course, is limited by what there is to choose from; so that the development of what may be termed social opportunity should be concurrently reviewed. Again, it is the aim of every moral system so to educate each man that his directive self may be as far as possible identified with his social self. Even suicide is not a man's own affair, according to the voice of society which speaks in the moral code. Nevertheless, lest the important truth be overlooked that social control implies a will that must meet the control half-way, it is well for the student of man to pay separate and special attention to the individual agent. The last word in anthropology is: Know thyself.



CHAPTER II ANTIQUITY OF MAN

History, in the narrower sense of the word, depends on written records. As we follow back history to the point at which our written records grow hazy, and the immediate ancestors or predecessors of the peoples who appear in history are disclosed in legend that needs much eking out by the help of the spade, we pass into proto-history. At the back of that, again, beyond the point at which written records are of any avail at all, comes pre-history.

How, then, you may well inquire, does the pre-historian get to work? What is his method of linking facts together? And what are the sources of his information?

First, as to his method. Suppose a number of boys are in a field playing football, whose superfluous garments are lying about everywhere in heaps; and suppose you want, for some reason, to find out in what order the boys arrived on the ground. How would you set about the business? Surely you would go to one of the heaps of discarded clothes, and take note of the fact that this boy's jacket lay under that boy's waistcoat. Moving on to other heaps you might discover that in some cases a boy had thrown down his hat on one heap, his tie on another, and so on. This would help you all the more to make out the general series of arrivals. Yes, but what if some of the heaps showed signs of having been upset? Well, you must make allowances for these disturbances in your calculations. Of course, if some one had deliberately made hay with the lot, you would be nonplussed. The chances are, however, that, given enough heaps of clothes, and bar intentional and systematic wrecking of them, you would be able to make out pretty well which boy preceded which; though you could hardly go on to say with any precision whether Tom preceded Dick by half a minute or half an hour.

Such is the method of pre-history. It is called the stratigraphical method, because it is based on the description of strata, or layers.

Let me give a simple example of how strata tell their own tale. It is no very remarkable instance, but happens to be one that I have examined for myself. They were digging out a place for a gas-holder in a meadow in the town of St. Helier, Jersey, and carried their borings down to bed rock at about thirty feet, which roughly coincides with the present mean sea-level. The modern meadow-soil went down about five feet. Then came a bed of moss-peat, one to three feet thick. There had been a bog here at a time which, to judge by similar finds in other places, was just before the beginning of the bronze-age. Underneath the moss-peat came two or three feet of silt with sea-shells in it. Clearly the island of Jersey underwent in those days some sort of submergence. Below this stratum came a great peat-bed, five to seven feet thick, with large tree-trunks in it, the remains of a fine forest that must have needed more or less elevated land on which to grow. In the peat was a weapon of polished stone, and at the bottom were two pieces of pottery, one of them decorated with little pitted marks. These fragments of evidence are enough to show that the foresters belonged to the early neolithic period, as it is called. Next occurred about four feet of silt with sea-shells, marking another advance of the sea. Below that, again, was a mass, six to eight feet deep, of the characteristic yellow clay with far-carried fragments of rock in it that is associated with the great floods of the ice-age. The land must have been above the reach of the tide for the glacial drift to settle on it. Finally, three or four feet of blue clay resting immediately on bed-rock were such as might be produced by the sea, and thus probably betokened its presence at this level in the still remoter past.

Here the strata are mostly geological. Man only comes in at one point. I might have taken a far more striking case—the best I know—from St. Acheul, a suburb of Amiens in the north of France. Here M. Commont found human implements of distinct types in about eight out of eleven or twelve successive geological layers. But the story would take too long to tell. However, it is well to start with an example that is primarily geological. For it is the geologist who provides the pre-historic chronometer. Pre-historians have to reckon in geological time—that is to say, not in years, but in ages of indefinite extent corresponding to marked changes in the condition of the earth's surface. It takes the plain man a long time to find out that it is no use asking the pre-historian, who is proudly displaying a skull or a stone implement, "Please, how many years ago exactly did its owner live?" I remember hearing such a question put to the great savant, M. Cartailhac, when he was lecturing upon the pre-historic drawings found in the French and Spanish caves; and he replied, "Perhaps not less than 6,000 years ago and not more than 250,000." The backbone of our present system of determining the series of pre-historic epochs is the geological theory of an ice-age comprising a succession of periods of extreme glaciation punctuated by milder intervals. It is for the geologists to settle in their own way, unless, indeed, the astronomers can help them, why there should have been an ice-age at all; what was the number, extent, and relative duration of its ups and downs; and at what time, roughly, it ceased in favour of the temperate conditions that we now enjoy. The pre-historians, for their part, must be content to make what traces they discover of early man fit in with this pre-established scheme, uncertain as it is. Every day, however, more agreement is being reached both amongst themselves and between them and the geologists; so that one day, I am confident, if not exactly to-morrow, we shall know with fair accuracy how the boys, who left their clothes lying about, followed one another into the field.

Sometimes, however, geology does not, on the face of it, come into the reckoning. Thus I might have asked the reader to assist at the digging out of a cave, say, one of the famous caves at Mentone, on the Italian Riviera, just beyond the south-eastern corner of France. These caves were inhabited by man during an immense stretch of time, and, as you dig down, you light upon one layer after another of his leavings. But note in such a case as this how easily you may be baffled by some one having upset the heap of clothes, or, in a word, by rearrangement. Thus the man whose leavings ought to form the layer half-way up may have seen fit to dig a deep hole in the cave-floor in order to bury a deceased friend, and with him, let us suppose, to bury also an assortment of articles likely to be useful in the life beyond the grave. Consequently an implement of one age will be found lying cheek by jowl with the implement of a much earlier age, or even, it may be, some feet below it. Thereupon the pre-historian must fall back on the general run, or type, in assigning the different implements each to its own stratum. Luckily, in the old days fashions tended to be rigid; so that for the pre-historian two flints with slightly different chipping may stand for separate ages of culture as clearly as do a Greek vase and a German beer-mug for the student of more recent times.

* * * * *

Enough concerning the stratigraphical method. A word, in the next place, about the pre-historian's main sources of information. Apart from geological facts, there are three main classes of evidence that serve to distinguish one pre-historic epoch from another. These are animal bones, human bones, and human handiwork.

Again I illustrate by means of a case of which I happen to have first-hand knowledge. In Jersey, near the bay of St. Brelade, is a cave, in which we dug down through some twenty feet of accumulated clay and rock-rubbish, presumably the effects of the last throes of the ice-age, and came upon a pre-historic hearth. There were the big stones that had propped up the fire, and there were the ashes. By the side were the remains of a heap of food-refuse. The pieces of decayed bone were not much to look at; yet, submitted to an expert, they did a tale unfold. He showed them to be the remains of the woolly rhinoceros, the mammoth's even more unwieldy comrade, of the reindeer, of two kinds of horse, one of them the pony-like wild horse still to be found in the Mongolian deserts, of the wild ox, and of the deer. Truly there was better hunting to be got in Jersey in the days when it formed part of a frozen continent.

Next, the food-heap yields thirteen of somebody's teeth. Had they eaten him? It boots not to inquire; though, as the owner was aged between twenty and thirty, the teeth could hardly have fallen out of their own accord. Such grinders as they are too! A second expert declares that the roots beat all records. They are of the kind that goes with an immensely powerful jaw, needing a massive brow-ridge to counteract the strain of the bite, and in general involving the type of skull known as the Neanderthal, big-brained enough in its way, but uncommonly ape-like all the same.

Finally, the banqueters have left plenty of their knives lying about. These good folk had their special and regular way of striking off a broad flat flake from the flint core; the cores are lying about, too, and with luck you can restore some of the flakes to their original position. Then, leaving one side of the flake untouched, they trimmed the surface of the remaining face, and, as the edges grew blunt with use, kept touching them up with the hammer-stone—there it is also lying by the hearth—until, perhaps, the flake loses its oval shape and becomes a pointed triangle. A third expert is called in, and has no difficulty in recognizing these knives as the characteristic handiwork of the epoch known as the Mousterian. If one of these worked flints from Jersey was placed side by side with another from the cave of Le Moustier, near the right bank of the Vezere in south-central France, whence the term Mousterian, you could hardly tell which was which; whilst you would still see the same family likeness if you compared the Jersey specimens with some from Amiens, or from Northfleet on the Thames, or from Icklingham in Suffolk.

Putting all these kinds of evidence together, then, we get a notion, doubtless rather meagre, but as far as it goes well-grounded, of a hunter of the ice-age, who was able to get the better of a woolly rhinoceros, could cook a lusty steak off him, had a sharp knife to carve it, and the teeth to chew it, and generally knew how, under the very chilly circumstances, both to make himself comfortable and to keep his race going.

There is one other class of evidence on which the pre-historian may with due caution draw, though the risks are certain and the profits uncertain. The ruder peoples of to-day are living a life that in its broad features cannot be wholly unlike the life of the men of long ago. Thus the pre-historian should study Spencer and Gillen on the natives of Central Australia, if only that he may take firm hold of the fact that people with skulls inclining towards the Neanderthal type, and using stone knives, may nevertheless have very active minds; in short, that a rich enough life in its way may leave behind it a poor rubbish-heap. When it comes, however, to the borrowing of details, to patch up the holes in the pre-historic record with modern rags and tatters makes better literature than science. After all, the Australians, or Tasmanians, or Bushmen, or Eskimo, of whom so much is beginning to be heard amongst pre-historians, are our contemporaries—that is to say, have just as long an ancestry as ourselves; and in the course of the last 100,000 years or so our stock has seen so many changes, that their stocks may possibly have seen a few also. Yet the real remedy, I take it, against the misuse of analogy is that the student should make himself sufficiently at home in both branches of anthropology to know each of the two things he compares for what it truly is.

* * * * *

Having glanced at method and sources, I pass on to results. Some text-book must be consulted for the long list of pre-historic periods required for western Europe, not to mention the further complications caused by bringing in the remaining portions of the world. The stone-age, with its three great divisions, the eolithic (eos, Greek for dawn, and lithos, stone) the palaeolithic (pallaeos, old), and the neolithic (neos, new), and their numerous subdivisions, comes first; then the age of copper and bronze; and then the early iron-age, which is about the limit of proto-history. Here I shall confine my remarks to Europe. I am not going far afield into such questions as: Who were the mound-builders of North America? And are the Calaveras skull and other remains found in the gold-bearing gravels of California to be reckoned amongst the earliest traces of man in the globe? Nor, again, must I pause to speculate whether the dark-stained lustrous flint implements discovered by Mr. Henry Balfour at a high level below the Victoria Falls, and possibly deposited there by the river Zambezi before it had carved the present gorge in the solid basalt, prove that likewise in South Africa man was alive and busy untold thousands of years ago. Also, I shall here confine myself to the stone-age, because my object is chiefly to illustrate the long pedigree of the species from which we are all sprung.

The antiquity of man being my immediate theme, I can hardly avoid saying something about eoliths; though the subject is one that invariably sets pre-historians at each other's throats. There are eoliths and eoliths, however; and some of M. Rutot's Belgian examples are now-a-days almost reckoned respectable. Let us, nevertheless, inquire whether eoliths are not to be found nearer home. I can wish the reader no more delightful experience than to run down to Ightham in Kent, and pay a call on Mr. Benjamin Harrison. In the room above what used to be Mr. Harrison's grocery-store, eoliths beyond all count are on view, which he has managed to amass in his rare moments of leisure. As he lovingly cons the stones over, and shows off their points, his enthusiasm is likely to prove catching. But the visitor, we shall suppose, is sceptical. Very good; it is not far, though a stiffish pull, to Ash on the top of the North Downs. Hereabouts are Mr. Harrison's hunting-grounds. Over these stony tracts he has conducted Sir Joseph Prestwich and Sir John Evans, to convince the one authority, but not the other. Mark this pebbly drift of rusty-red colour spread irregularly along the fields, as if the relics of some ancient stream or flood. On the surface, if you are lucky, you may pick up an unquestionable palaeolith of early type, with the rusty-red stain of the gravel over it to show that it has lain there for ages. But both on and below the surface, the gravel being perhaps from five to seven feet deep, another type of stone occurs, the so-called eolith. It is picked out from amongst ordinary stones partly because of its shape, and partly because of rough and much-worn chippings that suggest the hand of art or of nature, according to your turn of mind. Take one by itself, explains Mr. Harrison, and you will be sure to rank it as ordinary road-metal. But take a series together, and then, he urges, the sight of the same forms over and over again will persuade you in the end that human design, not aimless chance, has been at work here.

Well, I must leave Mr. Harrison to convert you into the friend or foe of his eoliths, and will merely add a word in regard to the probable age of these eolith-bearing gravels. Sir Joseph Prestwich has tried to work the problem out. Now-a-days Kent and Sussex run eastwards in five more or less parallel ridges, not far short of 1,000 feet high, with deep valleys between. Formerly, however, no such valleys existed, and a great dome of chalk, some 2,500 feet high at its crown, perhaps, though others would say less, covered the whole country. That is why rivers like the Darenth and Medway cut clean through the North Downs and fall into the Thames, instead of flowing eastwards down the later valleys. They started to carve their channels in the soft chalk in the days gone by, when the watershed went north and south down the slopes of the great dome. And the red gravels with the eoliths in them, concludes Prestwich, must have come down the north slope whilst the dome was still intact; for they contain fragments of stone that hail from right across the present valleys. But, if the eoliths are man-made, then man presumably killed game and cut it up on top of the Wealden dome, how many years ago one trembles to think.

* * * * *

Let us next proceed to the subject of palaeoliths. There is, at any rate, no doubt about them. Yet, rather more than half a century ago, when the Abbe Boucher de Perthes found palaeoliths in the gravels of the Somme at Abbeville, and was the first to recognize them for what they are, there was no small scandal. Now-a-days, however, the world takes it as a matter of course that those lumpish, discoloured, and much-rolled stones, shaped something like a pear, which come from the high terraces deposited by the Ancient Thames, were once upon a time the weapons or tools of somebody who had plenty of muscle in his arm. Plenty of skill he had in his fingers, too; for to chip a flint-pebble along both faces, till it takes a more or less symmetrical and standard shape, is not so easy as it sounds. Hammer away yourself at such a pebble, and see what a mess you make of it. To go back for one moment to the subject of eoliths, we may fairly argue that experimental forms still ruder than the much-trimmed palaeoliths of the early river-drift must exist somewhere, whether Mr. Harrison's eoliths are to be classed amongst them or not. Indeed, the Tasmanians of modern days carved their simple tools so roughly, that any one ignorant of their history might easily mistake the greater number for common pieces of stone. On the other hand, as we move on from the earlier to the later types of river-drift implements, we note how by degrees practice makes perfect. The forms grow ever more regular and refined, up to the point of time which has been chosen as the limit for the first of the three main stages into which the vast palaeolithic epoch has to be broken up. The man of the late St. Acheul period, as it is termed, was truly a great artist in his way. If you stare vacantly at his handiwork in a museum, you are likely to remain cold to its charm. But probe about in a gravel-bed till you have the good fortune to light on a masterpiece; tenderly smooth away with your fingers the dirt sticking to its surface, and bring to view the tapering or oval outline, the straight edge, the even and delicate chipping over both faces; then, wrapping it carefully in your handkerchief, take it home to wash, and feast till bedtime on the clean feel and shining mellow colour of what is hardly more an implement than a gem. They took a pride in their work, did the men of old; and, until you can learn to sympathize, you are no anthropologist.

During the succeeding main stage of the palaeolithic epoch there was a decided set-back in the culture, as judged by the quality of the workmanship in flint. Those were the days of the Mousterians who dined off woolly rhinoceros in Jersey. Their stone implements, worked only on one face, are poor things by comparison with those of late St. Acheul days, though for a time degenerated forms of the latter seem to have remained in use. What had happened? We can only guess. Probably something to do with the climate was at the bottom of this change for the worse. Thus M. Rutot believes that during the ice-age each big freeze was followed by an equally big flood, preceding each fresh return of milder weather. One of these floods, he thinks, must have drowned out the neat-fingered race of St. Acheul, and left the coast clear for the Mousterians with their coarser type of culture. Perhaps they were coarser in their physical type as well.[1]

[Footnote 1: Theirs was certainly the rather ape-like Neanderthal build. If, however, the skull found at Galley Hill, near Northfleet in Kent, amongst the gravels laid down by the Thames when it was about ninety feet above its present level, is of early palaeolithic date, as some good authorities believe, there was a kind of man away back in the drift-period who had a fairly high forehead and moderate brow-ridges, and in general was a less brutal specimen of humanity than our Mousterian friend of the large grinders.]

To the credit of the Mousterians, however, must be set down the fact that they are associated with the habit of living in caves, and perhaps may even have started it; though some implements of the drift type occur in Le Moustier itself, as well as in other caves, such as the famous Kent's Cavern near Torquay. Climate, once more, has very possibly to answer for having thus driven man underground. Anyway, whether because they must, or because they liked it, the Mousterians went on with their cave life during an immense space of time, making little progress; unless it were to learn gradually how to sharpen bones into implements. But caves and bones alike were to play a far more striking part in the days immediately to follow.

The third and last main stage of the palaeolithic epoch developed by degrees into a golden age of art. But I cannot dwell on all its glories. I must pass by the beautiful work in flint; such as the thin blades of laurel-leaf pattern, fairly common in France but rare in England, belonging to the stage or type of culture known as the Solutrian (from Solutre in the department of Saone-et-Loire). I must also pass by the exquisite French examples of the carvings or engravings of bone and ivory; a single engraving of a horse's head, from the cave at Creswell Crags in Derbyshire, being all that England has to offer in this line. Any good museum can show you specimens or models of these delightful objects; whereas the things about which I am going to speak must remain hidden away for ever where their makers left them—I mean the paintings and engravings on the walls of the French and Spanish caves.

I invite you to accompany me in the spirit first of all to the cave of Gargas near Aventiron, under the shadow of the Pic du Midi in the High Pyrenees. Half-way up a hill, in the midst of a wilderness of rocky fragments, the relics of the ice-age, is a smallish hole, down which we clamber into a spacious but low-roofed grotto, stretching back five hundred feet or so into infinite darkness. Hard by the mouth, where the light of day freely enters, are the remains of a hearth, with bone-refuse and discarded implements mingling with the ashes to a considerable depth. A glance at these implements, for instance the small flint scraper with narrow high back and perpendicular chipping along the sides, is enough to show that the men who once warmed their fingers here were of the so-called Aurignacian type (Aurignac in the department of Haute Garonne, in southern France), that is to say, lived somewhere about the dawn of the third stage of the palaeolithic epoch. Directly after their disappearance nature would seem to have sealed up the cave again until our time, so that we can study them here all by themselves.

Now let us take our lamps and explore the secrets of the interior. The icy torrents that hollowed it in the limestone have eaten away rounded alcoves along the sides. On the white surface of these, glazed over with a preserving film of stalactite, we at once notice the outlines of many hands. Most of them left hands, showing that the Aurignacians tended to be right-handed, like ourselves, and dusted on the paint, black manganese or red ochre, between the outspread fingers in just way that we, too, would find convenient. Curiously enough, this practice of stencilling hands upon the walls of caves is in vogue amongst the Australian natives; though unfortunately, they keep the reason, if there is any deeper one than mere amusement, strictly to themselves. Like the Australians, again, and other rude peoples, these Aurignacians would appear to have been given to lopping off an occasional finger—from some religious motive, we may guess—to judge from the mutilated look of a good many of the handprints.

The use of paint is here limited to this class of wall-decoration. But a sharp flint makes an excellent graving tool; and the Aurignacian hunter is bent on reproducing by this means the forms of those game-animals about which he doubtless dreams night and day. His efforts in this direction, however, rather remind us of those of our infant-schools. Look at this bison. His snout is drawn sideways, but the horns branch out right and left as if in a full-face view. Again, our friend scamps details such as the legs. Sheer want of skill, we may suspect, leads him to construct what is more like the symbol of something thought than the portrait of something seen. And so we wander farther and farther into the gloomy depths, adding ever new specimens to our pre-historic menagerie, including the rare find of a bird that looks uncommonly like the penguin. Mind, by the way, that you do not fall into that round hole in the floor. It is enormously deep; and more than forty cave-bears have left their skeletons at the bottom, amongst which your skeleton would be a little out of place.

Next day let us move off eastwards to the Little Pyrenees to see another cave, Niaux, high up in a valley scarred nearly up to the top by former glaciers. This cave is about a mile deep; and it will take you half a mile of awkward groping amongst boulders and stalactites, not to mention a choke in one part of the passage such as must puzzle a fat man, before the cavern becomes spacious, and you find yourself in the vast underground cathedral that pre-historic man has chosen for his picture-gallery. This was a later stock, that had in the meantime learnt how to draw to perfection. Consider the bold black and white of that portrait of a wild pony, with flowing mane and tail, glossy barrel, and jolly snub-nosed face. It is four or five feet across, and not an inch of the work is out of scale. The same is true of nearly every one of the other fifty or more figures of game-animals. These artists could paint what they saw.

Yet they could paint up on the walls what they thought, too. There are likewise whole screeds of symbols waiting, perhaps waiting for ever, to be interpreted. The dots and lines and pothooks clearly belong to a system of picture-writing. Can we make out their meaning at all? Once in a way, perhaps. Note these marks looking like two different kinds of throwing-club; at any rate, there are Australian weapons not unlike them. To the left of them are a lot of dots in what look like patterns, amongst which we get twice over the scheme of one dot in the centre of a circle of others. Then, farther still to the left, comes the painted figure of a bison; or, to be more accurate, the front half is painted, the back being a piece of protruding rock that gives the effect of low relief. The bison is rearing back on its haunches, and there is a patch of red paint, like an open wound, just over the region of its heart. Let us try to read the riddle. It may well embody a charm that ran somewhat thus: "With these weapons, and by these encircling tactics, may we slay a fat bison, O ye powers of the dark!" Depend upon it, the men who went half a mile into the bowels of a mountain, to paint things up on the walls, did not do so merely for fun. This is a very eerie place, and I daresay most of us would not like to spend the night there alone; though I know a pre-historian who did. In Australia, as we shall see later on, rock-paintings of game-animals, not so lifelike as these of the old days, but symbolic almost beyond all recognizing, form part of solemn ceremonies whereby good hunting is held to be secured. Something of the sort, then, we may suppose, took place ages ago in the cave of Niaux. So, indeed, it was a cathedral after a fashion; and, having in mind the carven pillars of stalactite, the curving alcoves and side-chapels, the shining white walls, and the dim ceiling that held in scorn our powerful lamps, I venture to question whether man has ever lifted up his heart in a grander one.

Space would fail me if I now sought to carry you off to the cave of Altamira, near Santander, in the north-west of Spain. Here you might see at its best a still later style of rock-painting, which deserts mere black and white for colour-shading of the most free description. Indeed, it is almost too free, in my judgment; for, though the control of the artist over his rude material is complete, he is inclined to turn his back on real life, forcing the animal forms into attitudes more striking than natural, and endowing their faces sometimes, as it seems to me, with almost human expressions. Whatever may be thought of the likelihood of these beasts being portrayed to look like men, certain it is that in the painted caves of this period the men almost invariably have animal heads, as if they were mythological beings, half animal and half human; or else—as perhaps is more probable—masked dancers. At one place, however—namely, in the rock shelter of Cogul near Lerida, on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, we have a picture of a group of women dancers who are not masked, but attired in the style of the hour. They wear high hats or chignons, tight waists, and bell-shaped skirts. Really, considering that we thus have a contemporary fashion-plate, so to say, whilst there are likewise the numerous stencilled hands elsewhere on view, and even, as I have seen with my own eyes at Niaux in the sandy floor, hardened over with stalagmite, the actual print of a foot, we are brought very near to our palaeolithic forerunners; though indefinite ages part them from us if we reckon by sheer time.

* * * * *

Before ending this chapter, I have still to make good a promise to say something about the neolithic men of western Europe. These people often, though not always, polished their stone; the palaeolithic folk did not. That is the distinguishing mark by which the world is pleased to go. It would be fatal to forget, however, that, with this trifling difference, go many others which testify more clearly to the contrast between the older and newer types of culture. Thus it has still to be proved that the palaeolithic races ever used pottery, or that they domesticated animals—for instance, the fat ponies which they were so fond of eating; or that they planted crops. All these things did the neolithic peoples sooner or later; so that it would not be strange if palaeolithic man withdrew in their favour, because he could not compete. Pre-history is at present almost silent concerning the manner of his passing. In a damp and draughty tunnel, however, called Mas d'Azil, in the south of France, where the river Arize still bores its way through a mountain, some palaeolithic folk seem to have lingered on in a sad state of decay. The old sureness of touch in the matter of carving bone had left them. Again, their painting was confined to the adorning of certain pebbles with spots and lines, curious objects, that perhaps are not without analogy in Australia, whilst something like them crops up again in the north of Scotland in what seems to be the early iron-age. Had the rest of the palaeolithic men already followed the reindeer and other arctic animals towards the north-east? Or did the neolithic invasion, which came from the south, wipe out the lot? Or was there a commingling of stocks, and may some of us have a little dose of palaeolithic blood, as we certainly have a large dose of neolithic? To all these questions it can only be replied that we do not yet know.

No more do we know half as much as we should like about fifty things relating to the small, dark, long-headed neolithic folk, with a language that has possibly left traces in the modern Basque, who spread over the west till they reached Great Britain—it probably was an island by this time—and erected the well-known long barrows and other monuments of a megalithic (great-stone) type; though not the round barrows, which are the work of a subsequent round-headed race of the bronze-age. Every day, however, the spade is adding to our knowledge. Besides, most of the ruder peoples of the modern world were at the neolithic stage of culture at the time of their discovery by Europeans. Hence the weapons, the household utensils, the pottery, the pile-dwellings, and so on, can be compared closely; and we have a fresh instance of the way in which one branch of anthropology can aid another.

In pursuance of my plan, however, of merely pitching here and there on an illustrative point, I shall conclude by an excursion to Brandon, just on the Suffolk side of the border between that county and Norfolk. Here we can stand, as it were, with one foot in neolithic times and the other in the life of to-day. When Canon Greenwell, in 1870, explored in this neighbourhood one of the neolithic flint-mines known as Grime's Graves, he had to dig out the rubbish from a former funnel-shaped pit some forty feet deep. Down at this level, it appeared, the neolithic worker had found the layer of the best flint. This he quarried by means of narrow galleries in all directions. For a pick he used a red-deer's antler. In the British Museum is to be seen one of these with the miner's thumb-mark stamped on a piece of clay sticking to the handle. His lamp was a cup of chalk. His ladder was probably a series of rough steps cut in the sides of the pit. As regards the use to which the material was put, a neolithic workshop was found just to the south of Grime's Graves. Here, scattered about on all sides, were the cores, the hammer-stones that broke them up, and knives, scrapers, borers, spear-heads and arrow-heads galore, in all stages of manufacture.

Well, now let us hie to Lingheath, not far off, and what do we find? A family of the name of Dyer carry on to-day exactly the same old method of mining. Their pits are of squarer shape than the neolithic ones, but otherwise similar. Their one-pronged pick retains the shape of the deer's antler. Their light is a candle stuck in a cup of chalk. And the ladder is just a series of ledges or, as they call them, "toes" in the wall, five feet apart and connected by foot-holes. The miner simply jerks his load, several hundredweight of flints, from ledge to ledge by the aid of his head, which he protects with something that neolithic man was probably without, namely, an old bowler hat. He even talks a language of his own. "Bubber-hutching on the sosh" is the term for sinking a pit on the slant, and, for all we can tell, may have a very ancient pedigree. And what becomes of the miner's output? It is sold by the "jag"—a jag being a pile just so high that when you stand on any side you can see the bottom flint on the other—to the knappers of Brandon. Any one of these—for instance, my friend Mr. Fred Snare—will, while you wait, break up a lump with a short round hammer into manageable pieces. Then, placing a "quarter" with his left hand the leather pad that covers his knee, he will, with an oblong hammer, strike off flake after flake, perhaps 1,500 in a morning; and finally will work these up into sharp-edged squares to serve as gun-flints for the trade with native Africa. Alas! the palmy days of knapping gun-flints for the British Army will never return to Brandon. Still, there must have been trade depression in those parts at any time from the bronze-age up to the times of Brown Bess; for the strike-a-lights, still to be got at a penny each, can have barely kept the wolf from the door. And Mr. Snare is not merely an artisan but an artist. He has chipped out a flint ring, a feat which taxed the powers of the clever neolithic knappers of pre-dynastic Egypt; whilst with one of his own flint fishhooks he has taken a fine trout from the Little Ouse that runs by the town.

Thus there are things in old England that are older even than some of our friends wot. In that one county of Suffolk, for instance, the good flint—so rich in colour as it is, and so responsive to the hammer, at any rate if you get down to the lower layers or "sases," for instance, the floorstone, or the black smooth-stone that is generally below water-level—has served the needs of all the palaeolithic periods, and of the neolithic age as well, and likewise of the modern Englishmen who fought with flintlocks at Waterloo, or still more recently took out tinder-boxes with them to the war in South Africa. And what does this stand for in terms of the antiquity of man? Thousands of years? We do not know exactly; but say rather hundreds of thousands of years.



CHAPTER III RACE

There is a story about the British sailor who was asked to state what he understood by a Dago. "Dagoes," he replied, "is anything wot isn't our sort of chaps." In exactly the same way would an ancient Greek have explained what he meant by a "barbarian." When it takes this wholesale form we speak, not without reason, of race-prejudice. We may well wonder in the meantime how far this prejudice answers to something real. Race would certainly seem to be a fact that stares one in the face.

Stroll down any London street: you cannot go wrong about that Hindu student with features rather like ours but of a darker shade. The short dapper man with eyes a little aslant is no less unmistakably a Japanese. It takes but a slightly more practised eye to pick out the German waiter, the French chauffeur, and the Italian vendor of ices. Lastly, when you have made yourself really good at the game, you will be scarcely more likely to confuse a small dark Welshman with a broad florid Yorkshireman than a retriever with a mastiff.

Yes, but remember that you are judging by the gross impression, not by the element of race or breed as distinguished from the rest. Here, you say, come a couple of our American cousins. Perhaps it is their speech that betrayeth them; or perhaps it is the general cut of their jib. If you were to go into their actual pedigrees, you would find that the one had a Scotch father and a mother from out of Dorset; whilst the other was partly Scandinavian and partly Spanish with a tincture of Jew. Yet to all intents and purposes they form one type. And, the more deeply you go into it, the more mixed we all of us turn out to be, when breed, and breed alone, is the subject of inquiry. Yet race, in the only sense that the word has for an anthropologist, means inherited breed, and nothing more or less—inherited breed, and all that it covers, whether bodily or mental features.

For race, let it not be forgotten, presumably extends to mind as well as to body. It is not merely skin-deep. Contrast the stoical Red Indian with the vivacious Negro; or the phlegmatic Dutchman with the passionate Italian. True, you say, but what about the influence of their various climates, or again of their different ideals of behaviour? Quite so. It is immensely difficult to separate the effects of the various factors. Yet surely the race-factor counts for something in the mental constitution. Any breeder of horses will tell you that neither the climate of Newmarket, nor careful training, nor any quantity of oats, nor anything else, will put racing mettle into cart-horse stock.

In what follows, then, I shall try to show just what the problem about the race-factor is, even if I have to trespass a little way into general biology in order to do so.[2] And I shall not attempt to conceal the difficulties relating to the race-problem. I know that the ordinary reader is supposed to prefer that all the thinking should be done beforehand, and merely the results submitted to him. But I cannot believe that he would find it edifying to look at half-a-dozen books upon the races of mankind, and find half-a-dozen accounts of their relationships, having scarcely a single statement in common. Far better face the fact that race still baffles us almost completely. Yet, breed is there; and, in its own time and in its own way, breed will out.

[Footnote 2: The reader is advised to consult also the more comprehensive study on Evolution by Professors Geddes and Thomson in this series.]

Race or breed was a moment ago described as a factor in human nature. But to break up human nature into factors is something that we can do, or try to do, in thought only. In practice we can never succeed in doing anything of the kind. A machine such as a watch we can take to bits and then put together again. Even a chemical compound such as water we can resolve into oxygen and hydrogen and then reproduce out of its elements. But to dissect a living thing is to kill it once and for all. Life, as was said in the first chapter, is something unique, with the unique property of being able to evolve. As life evolves, that is to say changes, by being handed on from certain forms to certain other forms, a partial rigidity marks the process together with a partial plasticity. There is a stiffening, so to speak, that keeps the life-force up to a point true to its old direction; though, short of that limit, it is free to take a new line of its own. Race, then, stands for the stiffening in the evolutionary process. Just up to what point it goes in any given case we probably can never quite tell. Yet, if we could think our way anywhere near to that point in regard to man, I doubt not that we should eventually succeed in forging a fresh instrument for controlling the destinies of our species, an instrument perhaps more powerful than education itself—I mean, eugenics, the art of improving the human breed.

To see what race means when considered apart, let us first of all take your individual self, and ask how you would proceed to separate your inherited nature from the nature which you have acquired in the course of living your life. It is not easy. Suppose, however, that you had a twin brother born, if indeed that were possible, as like you as one pea is like another. An accident in childhood, however, has caused him to lose a leg. So he becomes a clerk, living a sedentary life in an office. You, on the other hand, with your two lusty legs to help you, become a postman, always on the run. Well, the two of you are now very different men in looks and habits. He is pale and you are brown. You play football and he sits at home reading. Nevertheless, any friend who knows you both intimately will discover fifty little things that bespeak in you the same underlying nature and bent. You are both, for instance, slightly colour-blind, and both inclined to fly into violent passions on occasion. That is your common inheritance peeping out—if, at least, your friend has really managed to make allowance for your common bringing-up, which might mainly account for the passionateness, though hardly for the colour-blindness.

But now comes the great difficulty. Let us further suppose that you two twins marry wives who are also twins born as like as two peas; and each pair of you has a family. Which of the two batches of children will tend on the whole to have the stronger legs? Your legs are strong by use; your brother's are weak by disuse. But do use and disuse make any difference to the race? That is the theoretical question which, above all others, complicates and hampers our present-day attempts to understand heredity.

In technical language, this is the problem of use-inheritance, otherwise known as the inheritance of acquired characters. It is apt to seem obvious to the plain man that the effects of use and disuse are transmitted to offspring. So, too, thought Lamarck, who half a century before Darwin propounded a theory of the origin of species that was equally evolutionary in its way. Why does the giraffe have so long a neck? Lamarck thought it was because the giraffe had acquired a habit of stretching his neck out. Every time there was a bad season, the giraffes must all stretch up as high as ever they could towards the leafy tops of the trees; and the one that stretched up farthest survived, and handed on the capacity for a like feat to his fortunate descendants. Now Darwin himself was ready to allow that use and disuse might have some influence on the offspring's inheritance; but he thought that this influence was small as compared with the influence of what, for want of a better term, he called spontaneous variation. Certain of his followers, however, who call themselves Neo-Darwinians, are ready to go one better. Led by the German biologist, Weismann, they would thrust the Lamarckians, with their hypothesis of use-inheritance, clean out of the field. Spontaneous variation, they assert, is all that is needed to prepare the way for the selection of the tall giraffe. It happened to be born that way. In other words, its parents had it in them to breed it so. This is not a theory that tells one anything positive. It is merely a caution to look away from use and disuse to another explanation of variation that is not yet forthcoming.

After all, the plain man must remember that the effects of use and disuse, which he seems to see everywhere about him, are mixed up with plenty of apparent instances to the contrary. He will smile, perhaps, when I tell him that Weismann cut off the tails of endless mice, and, breeding them together, found that tails invariably decorated the race as before. I remember hearing Mr. Bernard Shaw comment on this experiment. He was defending the Lamarckianism of Samuel Butler, who declared that our heredity was a kind of race-memory, a lapsed intelligence. "Why," said Mr. Shaw, "did the mice continue to grow tails? Because they never wanted to have them cut off." But men-folk are wont to shave off their beards because they want to have them off; and, amongst people more conservative in their habits than ourselves, such a custom may persist through numberless generations. Yet who ever observed the slightest signs of beardlessness being produced in this way? On the other hand, there are beardless as well as bearded races in the world; and, by crossing them, you could, doubtless, soon produce ups and downs in the razor-trade. Only, as Weismann's school would say, the required variation is in this case spontaneous, that is, comes entirely of its own accord.

Leaving the question of use-inheritance open, I pass on to say a word about variation as considered in itself and apart from this doubtful influence. Weismann holds, that organisms resulting from the union of two cells are more variable than those produced out of a single one. On this view, variation depends largely on the laws of the interaction of the dissimilar characters brought together in cell-union. But what are these laws? The best that can be said is that we are getting to know a little more about them every day. Amongst other lines of inquiry, the so-called Mendelian experiments promise to clear up much that is at present dark.

The development of the individual that results from such cell-union is no mere mixture or addition, but a process of selective organization. To put it very absurdly, one does not find a pair of two-legged parents having a child with legs as big as the two sets of legs together, or with four legs, two of them of one shape and two of another. In other words, of the possibilities contributed by the father and mother, some are taken and some are left in the case of any one child. Further, different children will represent different selections from amongst the germinal elements. Mendelism, by the way, is especially concerned to find out the law according to which the different types of organization are distributed between the offspring. Each child, meanwhile, is a unique individual, a living whole with an organization of its very own. This means that its constituent elements form a system. They stand to each other in relations of mutual support. In short, life is possible because there is balance.

This general state of balance, however, is able to go along with a lot of special balancings that seem largely independent of each other. It is important to remember this when we come a little later on to consider the instincts. All sorts of lesser systems prevail within the larger system represented by the individual organism. It is just as if within the state with its central government there were a number of county councils, municipal corporations, and so on, each of them enjoying a certain measure of self-government on its own account. Thus we can see in a very general way how it is that so much variation is possible. The selective organization, which from amongst the germinal elements precipitates ever so many and different forms of fresh life, is so loose and elastic that a working arrangement between the parts can be reached in all sorts of directions. The lesser systems are so far self-governing that they can be trusted to get along in almost any combination; though of course some combinations are naturally stronger and more stable than the rest, and hence tend to outlast them, or, as the phrase goes, to be preserved by natural selection.

It is time to take account of the principle of natural selection. We have done with the subject of variation. Whether use and disuse have helped to shape the fresh forms of life, or whether these are purely spontaneous combinations that have come into being on what we are pleased to call their own account, at any rate let us take them as given. What happens now? At this point begins the work of natural selection. Darwin's great achievement was to formulate this law; though it is only fair to add that it was discovered by A.R. Wallace at the same moment. Both of them get the first hint of it from Malthus. This English clergyman, writing about half a century earlier, had shown that the growth of population is apt very considerably to outstrip the development of food-supply; whereupon natural checks such as famine or war must, he argued, ruthlessly intervene so as to redress the balance. Applying these considerations to the plant and animal kingdoms at large, Darwin and Wallace perceived that, of the multitudinous forms of life thrust out upon the world to get a livelihood as best they could, a vast quantity must be weeded out. Moreover, since they vary exceedingly in their type of organization, it seemed reasonable to suppose that, of the competitors, those who were innately fitted to make the best of the ever-changing circumstances would outlive the rest. An appeal to the facts fully bore out this hypothesis. It must not, indeed, be thought that all the weeding out which goes on favours the fittest. Accidents will always happen. On the whole, however, the type that is most at home under the surrounding conditions, it may be because it is more complex, or it may be because it is of simpler organization, survives the rest.

Now to survive is to survive to breed. If you live to eighty, and have no children, you do not survive in the biological sense; whereas your neighbour who died at forty may survive in a numerous progeny. Natural selection is always in the last resort between individuals; because individuals are alone competent to breed. At the same time, the reason for the individual's survival may lie very largely outside him. Amongst the bees, for instance, a non-working type of insect survives to breed because the sterile workers do their duty by the hive. So, too, that other social animal, man, carries on the race by means of some whom others die childless in order to preserve. Nevertheless, breeding being a strictly individual and personal affair, there is always a risk lest a society, through spending its best too freely, end by recruiting its numbers from those in whom the engrained capacity to render social service is weakly developed. To rear a goodly family must always be the first duty of unselfish people; for otherwise the spirit of unselfishness can hardly be kept alive the world.

Enough about heredity as a condition of evolution. We return, with a better chance of distinguishing them, to the consideration of the special effects that it brings about. It was said just now that heredity is the stiffening in human nature, a stiffening bound up with a more or less considerable offset of plasticity. Now clearly it is in some sense true that the child's whole nature, its modicum of plasticity included, is handed on from its parents. Our business in this chapter, however, is on the whole to put out of our thoughts this plastic side of the inherited life-force. The more or less rigid, definite, systematized characters—these form the hereditary factor, the race. Now none of these are ever quite fixed. A certain measure of plasticity has to be counted in as part of their very nature. Even in the bee, with its highly definite instincts, there is a certain flexibility bound up with each of these; so that, for instance, the inborn faculty of building up the comb regularly is modified if the hive happens to be of an awkward shape. Yet, as compared with what remains over, the characters that we are able to distinguish as racial must show fixity. Unfortunately, habits show fixity too. Yet habits belong to the plastic side of our nature; for, in forming a habit, we are plastic at the start, though hardly so once we have let ourselves go. Habits, then, must be discounted in our search for the hereditary bias in our lives. It is no use trying to disguise the difficulties attending an inquiry into race.

* * * * *

These difficulties notwithstanding, in the rest of this chapter let us consider a few of what are usually taken to be racial features of man. As before, the treatment must be illustrative; we cannot work through the list. Further, we must be content with a very rough division into bodily and mental features. Just at this point we shall find it very hard to say what is to be reckoned bodily and what mental. Leaving these niceties to the philosophers, however, let us go ahead as best we can.

Oh for an external race-mark about which there could be no mistake! That has always been a dream of the anthropologist; but it is a dream that shows no signs of coming true. All sorts of tests of this kind have been suggested. Cranium, cranial sutures, frontal process, nasal bones, eye, chin, jaws, wisdom teeth, hair, humerus, pelvis, the heart-line across the hand, calf, tibia, heel, colour, and even smell—all these external signs, as well as many more, have been thought, separately or together, to afford the crucial test of a man's pedigree. Clearly I cannot here cross-examine the entire crowd of claimants, were I even competent to do so. I shall, therefore, say a few words about two, and two only, namely, head-form and colour.

I believe that, if the plain man were to ask himself how, in walking down a London street, he distinguished one racial type from another, he would find that he chiefly went by colour. In a general way he knows how to make allowance for sunburn and get down to the native complexion underneath. But, if he went off presently to a museum and tried to apply his test to the pre-historic men on view there, it would fail for the simple reason that long ago they left their skins behind them. He would have to get to work, therefore, on their bony parts, and doubtless would attack the skulls for choice. By considering head-form and colour, then, we may help to cover a certain amount of the ground, vast as it is. For remember that anthropology in this department draws no line between ancient and modern, or between savage and civilized, but tries to tackle every sort of man that comes within its reach.

Head-shape is really a far more complicated thing to arrive at for purposes of comparison than one might suppose. Since no part of the skull maintains a stable position in regard to the rest, there can be no fixed standard of measurement, but at most a judgment of likeness or unlikeness founded on an averaging of the total proportions. Thus it comes about that, in the last resort, the impression of a good expert is worth in these matters a great deal more than rows of figures. Moreover, rows of figures in their turn take a lot of understanding. Besides, they are not always easy to get. This is especially the case if you are measuring a live subject. Perhaps he is armed with a club, and may take amiss the use of an instrument that has to be poked into his ears, or what not. So, for one reason or another, we have often to put up with that very unsatisfactory single-figure description of the head-form which is known as the cranial index. You take the greatest length and greatest breadth of the skull, and write down the result obtained by dividing the former into the latter when multiplied by 100. Medium-headed people have an index of anything between 75 and 80. Below that figure men rank as long-headed, above it as round-headed. This test, however, as I have hinted, will not by itself carry us far. On the other hand, I believe that a good judge of head-form in all its aspects taken together will generally be able to make a pretty shrewd guess as to the people amongst whom the owner of a given skull is to be placed.

Unfortunately, to say people is not to say race. It may be that a given people tend to have a characteristic head-form, not so much because they are of common breed, as because they are subjected after birth, or at any rate, after conception, to one and the same environment. Thus some careful observations made recently by Professor Boas on American immigrants from various parts of Europe seem to show that the new environment does in some unexplained way modify the head-form to a remarkable extent. For example, amongst the East European Jews the head of the European-born is shorter and wider than that of the American-born, the difference being even more marked in the second generation of the American-born. At the same time, other European nationalities exhibit changes of other kinds, all these changes, however, being in the direction of a convergence towards one and the same American type. How are we to explain these facts, supposing them to be corroborated by more extensive studies? It would seem that we must at any rate allow for a considerable plasticity in the head-form, whereby it is capable of undergoing decisive alteration under the influences of environment; not, of course, at any moment during life, but during those early days when the growth of the head is especially rapid. The further question whether such an acquired character can be transmitted we need not raise again. Before passing on, however, let this one word to the wise be uttered. If the skull can be so affected, then what about the brain inside it? If the hereditarily long-headed can change under suitable conditions, then what about the hereditarily short-witted?

It remains to say a word about the types of pre-historic men as judged by their bony remains and especially by their skulls. Naturally the subject bristles with uncertainties.

By itself stands the so-called Pithecanthropus (Ape-man) of Java, a regular "missing link." The top of the skull, several teeth, and a thigh-bone, found at a certain distance from each other, are all that we have of it or him. Dr. Dubois, their discoverer, has made out a fairly strong case for supposing that the geological stratum in which the remains occurred is Pliocene—that is to say, belongs to the Tertiary epoch, to which man has not yet been traced back with any strong probability. It must remain, however, highly doubtful whether this is a proto-human being, or merely an ape of a type related to the gibbon. The intermediate character is shown especially in the head form. If an ape, Pithecanthropus had an enormous brain; if a man, he must have verged on what we should consider idiocy.

1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse