Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man/Chapter 13




THE chronological relations of the human and glacial periods were frequently alluded to in the last chapter, and the sections obtained near Bedford (p. 164), and at Hoxne, in Suffolk (p. 168), and a general view of the Norfolk cliffs, have taught us that the earliest signs of man's appearance in the British Isles, hitherto detected, are of post-glacial date, in the sense of being posterior to the grand submergence of England beneath the waters of the glacial sea. But long after that period, when nearly the whole of England North of the Thames and Bristol Channel lay submerged for ages, the bottom of the sea, loaded with mud and stones melted out of floating ice, was upheaved, and glaciers filled for a second time the valleys of many mountainous regions. We may now therefore inquire whether the peopling of Europe by the human race and by the mammoth and other mammalia now extinct, was brought about during this concluding phase of the glacial epoch.

Although it may be impossible in the present state of our knowledge to come to a positive conclusion on this head, I know of no inquiry better fitted to clear up our views respecting the geological state of the northern hemisphere at the time when the fabricators of the flint implements of the Amiens type flourished. I shall therefore now proceed to consider the chronological relations of that ancient people with the final retreat of the glaciers from the mountains of Scandinavia, Scotland, Wales, and Switzerland.

Superficial Markings and Deposits left by Glaciers and Icebergs.

In order fully to discuss this question, I must begin by referring to some of the newest theoretical opinions entertained on the glacial question. When treating of this subject in the 'Principles of Geology,' ch. xv., and in the 'Manual (or Elements) of Geology,' ch. xi., I have stated that the whole mass of the ice in a glacier is in constant motion, and that the blocks of stone detached from boundary precipices, and the mud and sand swept down by avalanches of snow, or by rain from the surrounding heights, are lodged upon the surface and slowly borne along in lengthened mounds, called in Switzerland moraines. These accumulations of rocky fragments and detrital matter are left at the termination of the glacier, where it melts in a confused heap called the 'terminal moraine,' which is unstratified, because all the blocks, large and small, as well as the sand and the finest mud, are carried to equal distances and quietly deposited in a confused mass without being subjected to the sorting power of running water, which would convey the finer materials farther than the coarser ones, and would produce, as the strength of the current varied from time to time in the same place, a stratified arrangement.

In those regions where glaciers reach the sea, and where large masses of ice break off and float away, moraines, such as I have just alluded to, may be transported to indefinite distances, and may be deposited on the bottom of the sea wherever the ice happens to melt. If the liquefaction takes place when the berg has run aground and is stationary, and if there be no current, the heap of angular and rounded stones, mixed with sand and mud, may fall to the bottom in an unstratified form called 'till' in Scotland, and which has been shown in the last chapter to abound in the Norfolk cliffs; but should the action of a current intervene at certain points or at certain seasons, then the materials will be sorted as they fall, and arranged in layers according to their relative weight and size. Hence there will be passages from till to stratified clay, gravel, and sand, and intercalations of one in the other. Many of the blocks of stone with which the surfaces of glaciers are loaded, falling occasionally through fissures in the ice, get fixed and frozen into the bottom of the moving mass, and are pushed along under it. In this position, being subjected to great pressure, they scoop out long rectilinear furrows or grooves parallel to each other on the subjacent solid rock. Smaller scratches and striæ are made on the polished surface by crystals or projecting edges of the hardest minerals, just as a diamond cuts glass.

In all countries the fundamental rock on which the boulder formation reposes, if it consists of granite, gneiss, marble, or other hard stone capable of permanently retaining any superficial markings which may have been imprinted upon it, is smoothed or polished, and exhibits parallel striæ and furrows having a determinate direction. This prevailing direction, both in Europe and North America, is evidently connected with the course taken by the erratic blocks in the same district, and is very commonly from north to south, or if it be twenty or thirty or more degrees to the east or west of north, still always corresponds to the direction in which the large angular and rounded stones have travelled. These stones themselves also are often furrowed and scratched on more than one side, like those already spoken of as occurring in the glacial drift of Bedford (p. 165), and in that of Norfolk (pp. 213 and 218).

When we contemplate the area which is now exposed to the abrading action of ice, or which is the receptacle of moraine matter thrown down from melting glaciers or bergs, we at once perceive that the submarine area is the most extensive of the two. The number of large icebergs which float annually to great distances in the northern and southern hemisphere is extremely great, and the quantity of stone and mud which they carry about with them enormous. Some floating islands of ice have been met with from two to five miles in length, and from one hundred to two hundred and twenty-five feet in height above water, the submerged portion, according to the weight of ice relatively to sea water, being from six to eight times more considerable than the part which is visible. Such masses, when they run aground on the bottom of the sea, must exert a prodigious mechanical power, and may polish and groove the subjacent rocks after the manner of glaciers on the land. Hence there will often be no small difficulty in distinguishing between the effects of the submarine and supramarine agency of ice.

Scandinavia once covered with Ice, and a Centre of Dispersion of Erratics.

In the north of Europe, along the borders of the Baltic, where the boulder formation is continuous for hundreds of miles east and west, it has been long known that the erratic blocks, often of very large size, are of northern origin. Some of them have come from Norway and Sweden, others from Finland, and their present distribution implies that they were carried southwards, for a part at least of their way, by floating ice, at a time when much of the area over which they are scattered was under water. But it appears from the observations of Boetlingk, in 1840, and those of more recent inquirers, thatwhile many blocks have travelled to the south, others have been carried northwards, or to the shores of the Polar Sea, and others north-eastward, or to those of the White Sea. In fact, they have wandered towards all points of the compass, from the mountains of Scandinavia as a centre, and the rectilinear furrows imprinted by them on the polished surfaces of the mountains where the rocks are hard enough to retain such markings, radiate in all directions, or point outwards from the highest land, in a manner corresponding to the course of the erratics above mentioned.

Before the glacial theory was adopted, the Swedish and Norwegian geologists speculated on a great flood, or the sudden rush of an enormous body of water charged with mud and stones, descending from the central heights or watershed into the adjoining lower lands. The erratic blocks were supposed in their downward passage to have smoothed and striated the rock surfaces over which they were forced along.

It would be a waste of time, in the present state of science, to controvert this hypothesis, as it is now admitted that even if the rush of a diluvial current, invented for the occasion and wholly without analogy in the known course of nature, be granted, it would be inadequate to explain the uniformity, parallelism, persistency, and rectilinearity of the so-called glacial furrows. It is moreover ascertained that heavy masses of rock, not fixed in ice, and moving as freely as they do when simply swept along by a muddy current, do not give rise to such scratches and furrows.

M. Kjerulf, of Christiania, in a paper lately communicated to the Geological Society of Berlin,[1] has objected, and perhaps with reason, to what he considers the undue extent to which I have, in some of my writings, supposed the mountains of northern Europe to have been submerged during the glacial period. He remarks that the signs of glacial action on the Scandinavian mountains ascend as high as 6,000 feet, whereas fossil marine shells of the same period never reach elevations exceeding 600 feet. The land he says may have been much higher than it now is, but it has evidently not been much lower since the commencement of the glacial period, or marine shells would be traceable to more elevated points. In regard to the absence of marine shells, I shall point out in the sequel how small is the dependence we can place on this kind of negative evidence, if we desire to test by it the extent to which the land has been submerged. I cannot therefore consent to limit the probable depression and re-elevation of Scandinavia to 600 feet. But that the larger part of the glaciation of that country has been supramarine, I am willing to concede. In support of this view M. Kjerulf observes that the direction of the furrows and striæ, produced by glacial abrasion, neither conforms to a general movement of floating ice from the Polar regions, nor to the shape of the existing valleys, as it would do if it had been caused by independent glaciers generated in the higher valleys after the land had acquired its actual shape. Their general arrangement and apparent irregularities are, he contends, much more in accordance with the hypothesis of there having been at one time a universal covering of ice over the whole of Norway and Sweden, like that now existing in Greenland, which, being annually recruited by fresh falls of snow, was continually pressing outwards and downwards to the coast and lower regions, after crossing many of the lower ridges, and having no relation to the minor depressions, which were all choked up with ice and reduced to one uniform level.

Continental Ice of Greenland.

In support of this view, he appeals to the admirable description of the continental ice of Greenland, lately published by Dr. H. Rink, of Copenhagen,[2] who resided three or four years in the Danish settlements, in Baffin's Bay, on the west coast of Greenland, between latitudes 69º and 73º N. 'In that country, the land,' says Dr. Rink, 'may be divided into two regions, the "inland" and the "outskirts." The "inland," which is 800 miles from west to east, and of much greater length from north to south, is a vast unknown continent, buried under one continuous and colossal mass of permanent ice, which is always moving seaward, but a small proportion only of it in an easterly direction, since nearly the whole descends towards Baffin's Bay.' On reaching the heads of the fiords which intersect the coast, a perpendicular wall of ice, 2,000 feet thick, is seen, beyond which the ice of the interior rises by a succession of steps, twenty-five of which were counted by Rink (but of which there are known to be still more), all of them leading up to as many icy platforms, the ridges and valleys being levelled up to one uniform plane, and concealed by these tabular masses of ice.

Although all the ice is moving seaward, the greatest quantity is discharged at the heads of certain large friths, usually about four miles wide, which, if the climate were milder, would be the outlet of as many great rivers. Through these the ice is now protruded in huge blocks, several miles wide, and from 1,000 to 1,500 feet in height or thickness. When these masses reach the friths, they do not melt or break up into fragments, but continue their course in a solid form under the salt water, grating along the rocky bottom, which they must polish and score at depths of hundreds and even of more than a thousand feet. At length, when there is water enough to float them, huge portions, having broken off, fill Baffin's Bay with icebergs of a size exceeding any which could be produced by ordinary land glaciers. Stones, sand, and mud are sometimes included in these bergs which float down Baffin's Bay. At some points, where the ice of the interior of Greenland reaches the coast, Dr. Rink saw mighty springs of clayey water issuing from under the edge of the ice even in winter, showing the grinding action of the glacial mass mixed with sand, on the subjacent surface of the rocks.

The 'outskirts,' where the Danish colonies are stationed, consist of numerous islands, of which Disco island is the largest, in lat. 70º N., and of many peninsulas, with fiords from fifty to a hundred miles long, running into the land, and through which the ice above alluded to passes on its way to the bay. This area is 30,000 square miles in extent, and contains in it some mountains 4,000 feet to 5,000 feet high. The perpetual snow usually begins at the height of 2,000 feet, below which level the land is for the most part free from snow between June and August, and supports a vegetation of several hundred species of flowering plants, which ripen their seeds before the winter. There are even some places where phenogamous plants have been found at an elevation of 4,500 feet; a fact which, when we reflect on the immediate vicinity of so large and lofty a region of continental ice in the same latitude, well deserves the attention of the geologist, who should also bear in mind, that while the Danes are settled to the west in the 'outskirts,' there exists, due east of the most southern portion of this ice-covered continent, at the distance of about 1,200 miles, the home of the Laplanders with their reindeer, bears, wolves, seals, walruses, and cetacea. If, therefore, there are geological grounds for suspecting that Scandinavia or Scotland or Wales were ever in the same glacial condition as Greenland now is, we must not imagine that the contemporaneous fauna and flora were everywhere poor and stunted, or that they may not, especially at the distance of a few hundred miles in a southward direction, have been very luxuriant.

Another series of observations made by Captain Graah, during a survey of Greenland between 1823 and 1829, and by Dr. Pingel in 1830–32, adds not a little to the geological interest of the 'outskirts,' in their bearing on glacial phenomena of ancient date. Those Danish investigators, with one of whom, Dr. Pingel, I conversed at Copenhagen in 1834, ascertained that the whole coast from lat. 60º to about 70º north has been subsiding for the last four centuries, so that some ancient piles driven into the beach to support the boats of the settlers have been gradually submerged, and wooden buildings have had to be repeatedly shifted farther inland.[3]

In Norway and Sweden, instead of such a subsiding move ment, the land is slowly rising; but we have only to suppose that formerly, when it was covered like Greenland with continental ice, it sank at the rate of several feet in a century, and we shall be able to explain why marine deposits are found above the level of the sea, and why these generally overlie polished and striated surfaces of rock.

We know that Greenland was not always covered with snow and ice, for when we examine the tertiary strata of Disco Island (of the upper miocene period) we discover there a multitude of fossil plants, which demonstrate that, like many other parts of the arctic regions, it formerly enjoyed a mild and genial climate. Among the fossils brought from that island, lat. 70º N., Professor Heer has recognised Sequoia Langsdorfii, a coniferous species which flourished throughout a great part of Europe in the miocene period, and is very closely allied to the living Sequoia sempervirens of California. The same plant has been found fossil by Sir John Richardson within the arctic circle, far to the west on the Mackenzie River, near the entrance of Bear River, also by some Danish naturalists in Iceland to the east. The Icelandic surturbrand, or lignite, of this age has also yielded a rich harvest of plants, more than thirty-one of them, according to Steenstrup and Heer, in a good state of preservation, and no less than fifteen specifically identical with miocene plants of Europe. Thirteen of the number are arborescent; and amongst others is a tulip-tree (Liriodendron), with its fruit and characteristic leaves, a plane (Platanus), a walnut, and a vine, affording unmistakeable evidence of a climate in the parallel of the arctic circle which precludes the supposition of glaciers then existing in the neighbourhood, still less any general crust of continental ice, like that of Greenland.[4]

As the older pliocene flora of the tertiary strata of Italy, like the shells of the coralline crag, before adverted to, p. 210, indicate a temperature milder than that now prevailing in Europe, though not so warm as that of the upper miocene period, it is probable that the accumulation of snow and glaciers on the mountains and valleys of Greenland did not begin till after the commencement of the pliocene period, and may not have reached its maximum until the close of that period.

Norway and Sweden appear to have passed through all the successive phases of glaciation which Greenland has experienced, and others which that country will one day undergo, if the climate which it formerly enjoyed should ever be restored to it. There must have been first a period of separate glaciers in Scandinavia, then a Greenlandic state of continental ice, and thirdly, when that diminished, a second period of enormous separate glaciers filling many a valley now wooded with fir and birch. Lastly, under the influence of the Gulf Stream, and various changes in the height and extent of land in the arctic circle, a melting of nearly all the permanent ice between latitudes 60º and 70º north, corresponding to the parallels of the continental ice of Greenland, has occurred, so that we have now to go farther north than lat. 70º before we encounter any glacier coming down to the sea coast. Among other signs of the last retreat of the extinct glaciers, Kjerulf and other authors describe large transverse moraines left in many of the Norwegian and Swedish glens.

Chronological Relations of the Human and Glacial Periods in Sweden.

We may now consider whether any, and what part, of these changes in Scandinavia may have been witnessed by man. In Sweden, in the immediate neighbourhood of Upsala, I observed, in 1834, a ridge of stratified sand and gravel, in the midst of which occurs a layer of marl, evidently formed originally at the bottom of the Baltic, by the slow growth of the mussel, cockle, and other marine shells of living species intermixed with some proper to fresh water. The marine shells are all of dwarfish size, like those now inhabiting the brackish waters of the Baltic; and the marl, in which myriads of them are imbedded, is now raised more than a hundred feet above the level of the Gulf of Bothnia. Upon the top of this ridge (one of those called osars in Sweden) repose several huge erratics, consisting of gneiss for the most part unrounded, from nine to sixteen feet in diameter, and which must have been brought into their present position since the time when the neighbouring gulf was already characterised by its peculiar fauna. Here, therefore, we have proof that the transport of erratics continued to take place, not merely when the sea was inhabited by the existing testacea, but when the north of Europe had already assumed that remarkable feature of its physical geography, which separates the Baltic from the North Sea, and causes the Gulf of Bothnia to have only one-fourth of the saltness belonging to the ocean.

I cannot doubt that these large erratics of Upsala were brought into their present position during the recent period, not only because of their moderate elevation above the sea-level in a country where the land is now rising every century, but because I observed signs of a great oscillation of level which had taken place at Södertelje, south of Stockholm (about forty-five miles distant from Upsala), after the country had been inhabited by man. I described, in the 'Philosophical Transactions' for 1835, the section there laid open in digging a level in 1819, which showed that a subsidence followed by a re-elevation of land, each movement amounting to more than sixty feet, had occurred since the time when a rude hut had been built on the ancient shore. The wooden frame of the hut, with a ring of hearthstones on the floor, and much charcoal, were found, and over them marine strata, more than sixty feet thick, containing the dwarf variety of Mytilus edulis, and other brackish-water shells of the Bothnian Gulf. Some vessels put together with wooden pegs, of anterior date to the use of metals, were also embedded in parts of the same marine formation, which has since been raised, so that the upper beds are more than sixty feet above the sea-level, the hut being thus restored to about its original position relatively to the sea.

We have seen in the account of the Danish 'shell-mounds,' or 'refuse-heaps', of the recent period (p. 13), that even at the comparatively late period of their origin the waters of the Baltic had been rendered more salt than they are now. The Upsala erratics may belong to nearly the same era as those 'refuse-heaps.' But were we to go back to a long antecedent epoch, or to that of the Belgian and British caves with their extinct animals, and the signs they afford of a state of physical geography departing widely from the present, or to the era of the implement-bearing alluvium of St. Acheul, we might expect to find Scandinavia overwhelmed with glaciers, and the country uninhabitable by man. At a much remoter period the same country was in the state in which Greenland now is, overspread with one uninterrupted coating of continental ice, which has left its peculiar markings on the highest mountains. This period, probably anterior to the earliest traces yet brought to light of the human race, may have coincided with the submergence of England, and the accumulation of the boulder-clay of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Bedfordshire, before mentioned. It has already been stated that the syenite and some other rocks of the Norfolk till (p. 218) seem to have come from Scandinavia, and there is no era when icebergs are so likely to have floated them so far south as when the whole of Sweden and Norway were enveloped in a massive crust of ice; a state of things the existence of which is deduced from the direction of the glacial furrows, and their frequent unconformity to the shape of the minor valleys.

Glacial Period in Scotland.

Mr. Robert Chambers, after visiting Norway and Sweden, and comparing the signs of glacial action observed there with similar appearances in the Grampians, came to the conclusion that the Highlands both of Scandinavia and Scotland had once been 'moulded in ice,' and that the outward and downward movement and pressure of the frozen mass had not only smoothed, polished, and scratched the rocks, but had, in the course of ages, deepened and widened the valleys, and produced much of that denudation which has commonly been ascribed exclusively to aqueous action. The glaciation of the Scotch mountains was traced by him to the height of at least three thousand feet.[5]

Professor Agassiz, after his tour in Scotland in 1840, announced the opinion that erratic blocks had been dispersed from the Scottish mountains as from an independent centre, and that the capping of ice had been of extraordinary thickness. Mr. T. F. Jamieson, of Ellon, in Aberdeenshire, has recently brought forward an additional body of facts in support of this theory. According to him the Grampians were at the period of extreme cold enveloped 'in one great winding sheet of snow and ice,' which reached everywhere to the coast-line, the land being then more elevated than it is now. He describes the glacial furrows sculptured on the solid rocks as pointing in Aberdeenshire to the south-east, those of the valley of the Forth at Edinburgh, from west to east, and higher up the same valley at Stirling, from north–west to south-east, as they should do if the ice had followed the lines of what is now the principal drainage. The observations of Sir James Hall, Mr. Maclaren, Mr. Chambers, and Dr. Fleming, are cited by him in confirmation of this arrangement of the glacial markings, while in Sutherland and Rossshire he shows that the glacial furrows along the north coast point northwards, and in Argyleshire westwards, always in accordance with the direction of the principal glens and fiords.

Another argument is also adduced by him in proof of the ice having exerted its mechanical force in a direction from the higher and more inland country to the lower region and sea coast. Isolated hills and minor prominences of rock are often polished and striated on the land side, while they remain rough and jagged on the side fronting the sea. This may be seen both on the east and west coast, Mention is also made of blocks of granite which have travelled from south to north in Aberdeenshire, of which there would have been no examples had the erratics been all brought by floating ice from the arctic regions when Scotland was submerged. It is also urged against the doctrine of attributing the general glaciation to submergence, that the glacial grooves, instead of radiating as they do from a centre, would, if they had been due to ice coming from the north, have been parallel to the coast-line, to which they are now often almost at right angles. The argument, moreover, which formerly had most weight in favour of floating ice, namely, that it explained why so many of the stones did not conform to the contour and direction of the minor hills and valleys, is now brought forward, and with no small effect, in favour of the doctrine of continental ice on the Greenlandic scale, which, after levelling up the lesser inequalities, would occasionally flow in mighty ice-currents, in directions often at a high angle to the smaller ridges and glens.

The application to Scandinavia and Scotland of this theory makes it necessary to reconsider the validity of the proofs formerly relied on as establishing the submergence of a great part of Scotland beneath the sea, at some period subsequent to the commencement of the glacial period. In all cases where marine shells overlie till, or rest on polished and striated surfaces of rock, the evidence of the land having been under water, and having been since upheaved, remains unshaken; but this proof alone rarely extends to heights exceeding five hundred feet. In the basin of the Clyde we have already seen that recent strata occur twenty-five feet above the sea-level, with existing species of marine testacea, and with buried canoes, and other works of art. At the higher level of forty feet occurs the well-known raised beach of the western coast, which, according to Mr. Jamieson, contains, near Fort William and on Loch Fyne and elsewhere, an assemblage of shells implying a colder climate than that of the twenty-five foot terrace, or that of the present sea; just as, in the Valley of the Somme, the higher level gravels are supposed to belong to a colder period than the lower ones, and still more decidedly than that of the present era (see p. 142). At still greater elevations, older beds containing a still more arctic group of shells have been observed at Airdrie, fourteen miles south-east of Glasgow, 524 feet above the level of the sea. They were embedded in stratified clays, with the unstratified boulder till both above and below them, and in the overlying unstratified drift were some boulders of granite which must have come from distances of sixty miles at the least.[6] The presence of Tellina calcarea, and several other northern shells, implies a climate colder than that of the present Scottish seas. In the north of Scotland, marine shells have been found in deposits of the same age in Caithness and in Aberdeenshire at heights of two hundred and fifty feet, and on the shores of the Moray Frith, as at Gamrie in Banff, at an elevation of three hundred and fifty feet; and the stratified sands and beds of pebbles which belong to the same formation ascend still higher—to heights of five hundred feet at least.[7]

At much greater heights, stratified masses of drift occur in which hitherto no organic remains, whether of marine or freshwater animals, have ever been found. It is still an undecided question whether the origin of all such deposits in the Grampians can be explained without the intervention of the sea. One of the most conspicuous examples has been described by Mr. Jamieson as resting on the flank of a hill called Meal Uaine, in Perthshire, on the east side of the valley of the Tummel, just below Killiecrankie. It consists of perfectly horizontal strata, the lowest portion of them 300 feet above the river and 600 feet above the sea. From this elevation to an altitude of nearly 1,200 feet the same series of strata is traceable, continuously, up the slope of the mountain, and some patches are seen here and there even as high as 1,550 feet above the sea. They are made up in great part of finely laminated silt, alternating with coarser materials, through which stones from four to five feet in length are scattered. These large boulders, and some smaller ones, are polished on one or more sides, and marked with glacial striæ. The subjacent rocks, also, of gneiss, mica slate, and quartz, are everywhere grooved and polished as if by the passage of a glacier.[8]

At one spot a vertical thickness of 130 feet of this series of strata is exposed to view by a mountain torrent, and in all more than 2,000 layers of clay, sand, and gravel were counted, the whole evidently accumulated under water. Some beds consist of an impalpable mud-like putty, apparently derived from the grinding down of felspar, and resembling the mud produced by the grinding action of modern glaciers.

Mr. Jamieson, when he first gave an account of this drift, inferred, in spite of the absence of marine shells, that it implied the submergence of Scotland beneath the ocean after the commencement of the glacial period, or after the era of continental ice indicated by the subjacent floor of polished and grooved rock. This conclusion would require a submergence of the land as far up as 1,550 feet above the present sea-level, after which a great re-upheaval must have occurred. But the same author, having lately revisited the valley of the Tummel, suggests another possible, and I think probable, explanation of the same phenomena. The stratified drift in question is situated in a deep depression between two buttresses of rock, and if an enormous glacier be supposed to have once filled the valley of the Tummel to the height of the stratified drift, it may have dammed up the mouth of a mountain torrent by a transverse barrier, giving rise to a deep pond, in which beds of clay and sand brought down by the waters of the torrent were deposited. Charpentier in his work on the Swiss glaciers has described many such receptacles of stratified matter now in progress, and due to such blockages, and he has pointed out the remnants of ancient and similar formations left by extinct glaciers of an earlier epoch. He specially notices that angular stones of various dimensions, often polished and striated, which rest on the glacier and are let fall when the torrent undermines the side of the moving ice, descend into the small lake and be come interstratified with the gravel and fine sediment brought down by the torrent into the same.[9]

The evidence of the former sojourn of the sea upon the land after the commencement of the glacial period was formerly inferred from the height to which erratic blocks derived from distant regions could be traced, besides the want of conformity in the glacial furrows to the present contours of many of the valleys. Some of these phenomena may now, as we have seen, be accounted for by assuming that there was once a crust of ice resembling that now covering Greenland.

The Grampians in Forfarshire and in Perthshire are from 3,000 to 4,000 feet high. To the southward lies the broad and deep valley of Strathmore, and to the south of this again rise the Sidlaw Hills to the height of 1,500 feet and upwards. On the highest summits of this chain, formed of sandstone and shale, and at various elevations, I have observed huge angular fragments of mica-schist, some three and others fifteen feet in diameter, which have been conveyed for a distance of at least fifteen miles from the nearest Grampian rocks from which they could have been detached. Others have been left strewed over the bottom of the large intervening vale of Strathmore.[10]

It may be argued that the transportation of such blocks may have been due not to floating ice, but to a period when Strathmore was filled up with land ice, a current of which extended from the Perthshire Highlands to the summit of the Sidlaw Hills, and the total absence of marine or freshwater shells from all deposits, stratified or unstratified, which have any connection with these erratics in Forfarshire and Perthshire may be thought to favour such a theory.

But the same mode of transport can scarcely be imagined for those fragments of mica-schist, one of them weighing from eight to ten tons, which were observed much farther south by Mr. Maclaren on the Pentland Hills, near Edinburgh, at the height of 1,100 feet above the sea, the nearest mountain composed of this formation being fifty miles distant.[11] On the same hills, also, at all elevations, stratified gravels occur which, although devoid of shells, it seems hardly possible to refer to any but a marine origin.[11]

Although I am willing, therefore, to concede that the glaciation of the Scotch mountains, at elevations exceeding 2,000 feet, may be explained by land ice, it seems difficult not to embrace the conclusion that a subsidence took place not merely of 500 or 600 feet, as demonstrated by the marine shells, but to a much greater amount, as shown by the present position of erratics and some patches of stratified drift. The absence of marine shells at greater heights than 525 feet above the sea, will be treated of in a future chapter. It may in part, perhaps, be ascribed to the action of glaciers, which swept out marine strata from all the higher valleys, after the re-emergence of the land.

Latest Changes produced by Glaciers in Scotland.

We may next consider the state of Scotland after its emergence from the glacial sea, when we cannot fail to be approaching the time when man coexisted with the mammoth and other mammalia now extinct. In a paper which I published in 1840, on the ancient glaciers of Forfarshire, I endeavoured to show that some of these existed after the mountains and glens had acquired precisely their present shape,[12] and had left moraines even in the minor valleys, just where they would now leave them were the snow and ice again to gain ground. I described also one remarkable transverse mound, evidently the terminal moraine of a retreating glacier, which crosses the valley of the South Esk, a few miles above the point where it issues from the Grampians, and about six miles below the town of Clova. It is situated at a place called Glenairn (perhaps 700 feet above the level of the sea), where the valley is half a mile broad and is bounded by steep and lofty mountains. The valley immediately above this transverse barrier expands into a wide alluvial plain, which has evidently once been a lake. The barrier itself, nearly 200 feet high, consists in its lower part of till with boulders, 80 feet thick, precisely resembling the moraine of a Swiss glacier, above which there is a mass of stratified sand 100 feet thick, which has the appearance of consisting of the materials of the moraine re-arranged in a stratified form, possibly by the waters of a glacier lake. The structure of the entire barrier has been laid open by the Esk, which has cut through it a deep passage about 300 yards wide.

I have also given an account of another striking feature in the physical geography of Perthshire and Forfarshire, which I consider to belong to the same period; namely, a continuous zone of boulder clay, forming ridges and mounds from fifty to seventy feet high (the upper part of the mounds usually stratified), enclosing numerous lakes, some of them several miles long, and many ponds and swamps filled with shell-marl and peat. This band of till, with Grampian boulders and associated river-gravel, may be traced continuously for a distance of thirty-four miles, with a width of three and a half miles, from near Dunkeld, by Coupar, to the south of Blairgowrie, then through the lowest part of Strathmore, and afterwards in a straight line through the greatest depression in the Sidlaw Hills, from Forfar to Lunan Bay.

Although no great river now takes its course through this line of ancient lakes, moraines, and river gravel, yet it evidently marks an ancient line by which, first, a great glacier descended from the mountains to the sea, and by which, secondly, at a later period, the principal water drainage of this country was effected. The subsequent modification in geography is comparable in amount to that which has taken place since the higher level gravels of the Valley of the Somme were formed, or since the Belgian caves were filled with mud and bone-breccia.

Mr. Jamieson has remarked, in reference to this and some other extinct river-channels of corresponding date, that we have the means of ascertaining the direction in which the waters flowed by observing the arrangement of the oval and flattish pebbles in their deserted channels; for in the bed of a fast-flowing river such pebbles are seen to dip towards the current, as represented in fig. 35, such being the position of greatest resistance to the stream.[13] If this be admitted, it follows that the higher or mountainous country bore the same relation to the lower lands, at the time when a great river passed through this chain of lakes, as it does at present.

Fig. 35

Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man Fig. 35.png

We also seem to have a test of the comparatively modern origin of the mounds of till which surround the above mentioned chain of lakes (of which that of Forfar is one), in the species of organic remains contained in the shell-marl deposited at their bottom. All the mammalia as well as shells are of recent species. Unfortunately, we have no information as to the fauna which inhabited the country at the time when the till itself was formed. There seem to be only three or four instances as yet known in all Scotland of mammalia having been discovered in boulder clay.

Mr. R. Bald has recorded the circumstances under which a single elephant's tusk was found in the unstratified drift of the Valley of the Forth, with the minuteness which such a discovery from its rarity well deserved. He distinguishes the boulder clay, under the name of 'the old alluvial cover,' from that more modern alluvium, in which the whales of Airthrie, described at p. 53, were found. This cover he says is sometimes one hundred and sixty feet thick. Having never observed any organic remains in it, he watched with curiosity and care the digging of the Union Canal between Edinburgh and Falkirk, which passed for no less than twenty-eight miles almost continuously through it. Mr. Baird the engineer, who superintended the works, assisted in the inquiry, and at one place only in this long section did they meet with a fossil, namely, at Cliftonhall, in the valley of the Almond. It lay at a depth of between fifteen and twenty feet from the surface, in very stiff clay, and consisted of an elephant's tusk, thirty-nine inches long and thirteen in circumference, in so fresh a state that an ivory turner purchased it and turned part of it into chessmen before it was rescued from destruction. The remainder is still preserved in the museum at Edinburgh, but by exposure to the air it has shrunk considerably.[14] In 1817, two other tusks and some bones of the elephant, as we learn from the same authority (Mr. Bald), were met with, three and a half feet long and thirteen inches in circumference, lying in an horizontal position, seventeen feet deep in clay, with marine shells, at Kilmaurs, in Ayrshire. The species of shells are not given.[15]

In another excavation through the Scotch boulder clay, made in digging the Clyde and Forth Junction Railway, the antlers of a reindeer were found at Croftamie, in Dumbartonshire, in the basin of the river Endrick, which flows into Loch Lomond. They had cut through twelve feet of till with angular and rounded stones, some of large size, and then through six feet of underlying clay, when they came upon the deer's horns, eighteen feet from the surface, and within a foot of the sandstone on which the till rested. At the distance of a few yards, and in the same position, but a foot or two deeper, were observed marine shells, Cyprina islandica, Astarte elliptica, A. compressa, Fusus antiquus, Littorina littorea, and a Balanus. The height above the level of the sea was between one hundred and one hundred and three feet. The reindeer's horn was seen by Professor Owen, who considered it to be that of a young female of the large variety, called by the Hudson's Bay trappers the carabou.

The remains of elephants, now in the museums of Glasgow and Edinburgh, purporting to come from the superficial deposits of Scotland have been referred to Elephas primigenius. In cases where tusks alone have been found unaccompanied by molar teeth, such specific determinations may be uncertain; but if any one specimen be correctly named, the occurrence of the mammoth and reindeer in the Scotch boulder-clay, as both these quadrupeds are known to have been contemporary with man, favours the idea which I have already expressed, that the close of the glacial period in the Grampians may have coincided in time with the existence of man in those parts of Europe where the climate was less severe, as, for example, in the basins of the Thames, Somme, and Seine, in which the bones of many extinct mammalia are associated with flint implements of the antique type.

Parallel Roads of Glen Roy in Scotland.

Perhaps no portion of the superficial drift of Scotland can lay claim to so modern an origin on the score of the freshness of its aspect, as that which forms what are called the Parallel Roads of Glen Roy. If they do not belong to the recent epoch, they are at least posterior in date to the present outline of mountain and glen, and to the time when every one of the smaller burns ran in their present channels, though some of them have since been slightly deepened. The perfect horizontally, moreover, of the roads, one of which is continuous for about twenty miles from east to west, and twelve miles from north to south, shows that since the era of their formation no change has taken place in the relative levels of different parts of the district.

Glen Roy is situated in the Western Highlands, about ten miles north of Fort William, near the western end of the great glen of Scotland, or Caledonian Canal, and near the foot of the highest of the Grampians, Ben Nevis. (See map, p. 254.) Throughout nearly its whole length, a distance of more than ten miles, three parallel roads or shelves are traced along the steep sides of the mountains, as represented in the annexed view, Plate II., by the late Sir T. Lander Dick, each maintaining a perfect horizontally, and continuing at exactly the
Plate II.

Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man Plate 2.jpg


Glen Collarlg. Hill of Bohuntinr. Glen Roy. Mealderry. Entrance of Glen Spean.
Point of division between Glens Roy and Spean.
same level on the opposite sides of the glen. Seen at a distance, they appear like ledges, or roads, cut artificially out of the sides of the hills; but when we are upon them, we can scarcely recognise their existence, so uneven is their surface, and so covered with boulders. They are from ten to sixty feet broad, and merely differ from the side of the mountain by being somewhat less steep.

On closer inspection, we find that these terraces are stratified in the ordinary manner of alluvial or littoral deposits, as may be seen at those points where ravines have been excavated by torrents. The parallel shelves, therefore, have not been caused by denudation, but by the deposition of detritus, precisely similar to that which is dispersed in smaller quantities over the declivities of the hills above. These hills consist of clay-slate, mica schist, and granite, which rocks have been worn away and laid bare at a few points immediately above the parallel roads. The lowest of these roads is about 850 feet above the level of the sea, the next about 212 feet higher, and the third 82 feet above the second. There is a fourth shelf, which occurs only in a contiguous valley called Glen Gluoy, which is twelve feet above the highest of all the Glen Roy roads, and consequently about 1,156 feet above the level of the sea.[16] One only, the lowest of the three roads of Glen Roy, is continued throughout Glen Spean, a large valley with which Glen Roy unites. (See Plate II. and map, fig. 36.) As the shelves, having no slope towards the sea like ordinary river terraces, are always at the same absolute height, they become continually more elevated above the river in proportion as we descend each valley; and they at length terminate very abruptly, without any obvious cause, or any change either in the shape of the ground or in the composition or hardness of the rocks.

Fig. 36

Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man Fig. 36.png


I should exceed the limits of this work, were I to attempt

to give a full description of all the geographical circumstances attending these singular terraces, or to discuss the ingenious theories which have been severally proposed to account for them by Dr. Macculloch, Sir T. Lauder, and Messrs. Darwin, Agassiz, Milne, and Chambers. There is one point, however, on which all are agreed, namely, that these shelves are ancient beaches, or littoral formations, accumulated round the edges of one or more sheets of water which once stood for a long time successively at the level of the several shelves.

It is well known, that wherever a lake or marine fiord exists surrounded by steep mountains subject to disintegration by frost or the action of torrents, some loose matter is washed down annually, especially during the melting of snow, and a check is given to the descent of this detritus at the point where it reaches the waters of the lake. The waves then spread out the materials along the shore, and throw some of them upon the beach; their dispersing power being aided by the ice, which often adheres to pebbles during the winter months, and gives buoyancy to them.

Fig. 37

a b. Supposed original surface of rock.
c d. Roads or shelves in the outer alluvial covering of the hill.

The annexed diagram illustrates the manner in which Dr. Macculloch and Mr. Darwin suppose 'the roads' to constitute mere excrescences of the superficial alluvial coating which rests upon the hill side, and consists chiefly of clay and sharp unrounded stones.

Among Other proofs that the parallel roads have really been formed along the margin of a sheet of water, it may be mentioned, that wherever an isolated hill rises in the middle of the glen above the level of any particular shelf, as in Mealderry, Plate II., a corresponding shelf is seen at the same level passing round the hill, as would have happened if it had once formed an island in a lake or fiord. Another very remarkable peculiarity in these terraces is this; each of them comes in some portion of its course to a col, or parting ridge between the heads of glens, the explanation of which will be considered in the sequel.

Those writers who first advocated the doctrine that the roads were the ancient beaches of freshwater lakes, were unable to offer any probable hypothesis respecting the formation and subsequent removal of barriers of sufficient height and solidity to dam up the water. To introduce any violent convulsion for their removal was inconsistent with the uninterrupted horizontality of the roads, and with the undisturbed aspect of those parts of the glens where the shelves come suddenly to an end.

Mr. Agassiz and Dr. Buckland, desirous, like the defenders of the lake theory, to account for the limitation of the shelves to certain glens, and their absence in contiguous glens, where the rocks are of the same composition, and the slope and inclination of the ground very similar, first started the theory that these valleys were once blocked up by enormous glaciers descending from Ben Nevis, giving rise to what are called, in Switzerland and in the Tyrol, glacier-lakes. In corroboration of this view, they contended that the alluvium of Glen Roy, as well as of other parts of Scotland, agrees in character with the moraines of glaciers seen in the Alpine valleys of Switzerland. It will readily be conceded that this hypothesis was preferable to any previous lacustrine theory, by accounting more easily for the temporary existence and entire disappearance of lofty transverse barriers, although the height required for the supposed dams of ice appeared very enormous.

Before the idea of glacier-lakes had been suggested by Agassiz, Mr. Darwin examined Glen Roy, and came to the opinion that the shelves were formed when the glens were still arms of the sea, and, consequently, that there never were any seaward barriers. According to him, the land emerged during a slow and uniform upward movement, like that now experienced throughout a large part of Sweden and Finland; but there were certain pauses in the upheaving process, at which times the waters of the sea remained stationary for so many centuries as to allow of the accumulation of an extraordinary quantity of detrital matter, and the excavation, at many points immediately above the sea-level, of deep notches and bare cliffs in the hard and solid rock.

This theory I adopted in 1841 ('Elements,' 2nd ed.), as appearing to me less objectionable than any other then proposed. The phenomena most difficult to reconcile with it are, first, the abrupt cessation of the roads at certain points in the different glens; secondly, their unequal number in different valleys connecting with each other, there being three, for example, in Glen Roy, and only one in Glen Spean; thirdly, the precise horizontality of level maintained by the same shelf over a space many leagues in length, requiring us to assume, that during a rise of 1,156 feet no one portion of the land was raised even a few yards above another; fourthly, the coincidence of level already alluded to of each shelf with a col, or the point forming the head of two glens, from which the rain-waters flow in opposite directions. This last-mentioned feature in the physical geography of Lochaber Mr. Darwin endeavoured to explain in the following manner. He called these cols 'land-straits,' and regarding them as having been anciently sounds or channels between islands, he pointed out that there is a tendency in such sounds to be silted up, and always the more so in proportion to their narrowness. In a chart of the Falkland Islands, by Capt. Sullivan, R.N., it appears that there are several examples there of straits where the soundings diminish regularly towards the narrowest part. One is so nearly dry that it can be walked over at low water, and another, no longer covered by the sea, is supposed to have recently dried up in consequence of a small alteration in the relative level of sea and land. 'Similar straits,' observes Mr. Chambers, 'hovering, in character, between sea and land, and which may be called fords, are met with in the Hebrides. Such, for example, is the passage dividing the islands of Lewis and Harris, and that between North Uist and Benbecula, both of which would undoubtedly appear as cols, coinciding with a terrace or raised beach, all round the islands if the sea were to subside.'[17]

The first of the difficulties above alluded to, namely, the non-extension of the shelves over certain parts of the glens, might be explained, said Mr. Darwin, by supposing in certain places a quick growth of green turf on a good soil, which prevented the rain from washing away any loose materials lying on the surface. But wherever the soil was barren, and where green sward took long to form, there may have been time for the removal of the gravel. In one case an intermediate shelf appears for a short distance (three quarters of a mile) on the face of the mountain called Tombhran, between the two upper shelves, and is seen nowhere else. It occurs where there was the longest space of open water, and where the waves may have acquired a more than ordinary power to heap up detritus.

The unequal number of the shelves in valleys communicating with each other, and in which the boundary rocks are similar in composition, and the general absence of any shelves at corresponding altitudes in glens on the opposite watershed, like that of the Spey, and in valleys where the waters flow eastward, are difficulties attending the marine theory which have never yet been got over. Mr. T. F. Jamieson, before cited, has, during a late visit to Lochaber, in 1861, observed many facts highly confirmatory of the hypothesis of glacier-lakes which, as I have already stated, was originally advanced by Mr. Agassiz. In the first place, he found much superficial scoring and polishing of rocks, and accumulation of boulders at those points where signs of glacial action ought to appear, if ice had once dammed up the waters of the glens in which the 'roads' occur. Ben Nevis may have sent down its glaciers from the south, and Glen Arkeg from the north, for the mountains at the head of the last-mentioned glen are 3,000 feet high, and may, together with other tributary glens, have helped to choke up the great Caledonian valley with ice, so as to block up for a time the mouths of the Spean, Roy, and Gluoy. The temporary conversion of these glens into glacier-lakes is the more conceivable, because the hills at their upper ends not being lofty nor of great extent, they may not have been filled with ice at a time when great glaciers were generated in other adjoining and much higher regions.

2ndly. The shelves, says Mr. Jamieson, are more precisely defined and unbroken than any of the raised beaches or acknowledged ancient coast-lines visible on the west of Scotland, as in Argyleshire, for example.

3rdly. At the level of the lower shelf in Glen Roy, at points where torrents now cut channels through the shelf as they descend the hill-side, there are small delta-like extensions of the shelf, perfectly preserved, as if the materials, whether fine or coarse, had originally settled there in a placid lake, and had not been acted upon by tidal currents, mingling them with the sediment of other streams. These deltas are too entire to allow us to suppose that they have at any time since their origin been exposed to the waves of the sea.

4thly. The alluvium on the 'cols' or watersheds, before alluded to, is such as would have been formed if the waters of the rivers had been made to flow east, or out of the upper ends of the supposed glacier-lakes, instead of escaping at the lower ends, in a westerly direction, where the great blockages of ice are assumed to have occurred.

In addition to these arguments of Mr. Jamieson, I may mention that in Switzerland, at present, no testacea live in the cold waters of glacier-lakes; so that the entire absence of fossil shells, whether marine or freshwater, in the stratified materials of each shelf, would be accounted for, if the theory above mentioned be embraced.

When I examined 'the parallel roads' in 1825, in company with Dr. Buckland, neither this glacier theory nor Mr. Darwin's suggestion of ancient sea-margins had been proposed, and I have never since revisited Lochaber. But I retain in my memory a vivid recollection of the scenery and physical features of the district, and I now consider the glacier-lake theory as affording by far the most satisfactory solution of this difficult problem. The objection to it, which until lately appeared to be the most formidable, and which led Mr. Robert Chambers in his 'Sea Margins' to reject it entirely, was the difficulty of conceiving how the waters could be made to stand so high in Glen Roy, as to allow the upper most shelf to be formed. Grant a barrier of ice in the lower part of the glen, of sufficient altitude to stop the waters from flowing westward, still, what prevented them from escaping over the 'col' at the head of Glen Glaster? This 'col' coincides exactly in level, as Mr. Milne Home first ascertained, with the second or middle shelf of Glen Roy. The difficulty here stated appears now to be removed by supposing that the higher lines or roads were formed before the lower ones, and when the quantity of ice was most in excess. We must imagine that at the time when the uppermost shelf of Glen Roy was forming in a shallow lake, the lower part of that glen was filled up with ice, and, according to Mr. Jamieson, a glacier from Loch Treig then protruded itself across Glen Spean, and rested on the flank of the hill on the opposite side in such a manner as effectually to prevent any water from escaping over the Glen Glaster 'col.' The proofs of such a glacier having actually existed at the point in question consist, he says, in numerous cross striæ observable in the bottom of Glen Spean, and in the presence of moraine matter in considerable abundance on the flanks of the hill extending to heights above the Glen Glaster 'col.' When the ice shrank into less dimensions the second shelf would be formed, having its level determined by the col last mentioned, Glen Spean in the meantime being filled with a glacier. Finally, the ice blockage common to Glens Roy, Spean, and Laggan, which consisted probably of a glacier from Ben Nevis, gave rise to the lowest and most extensive lake, the waters of which escaped over the pass of Muckul or the 'col' at the head of Loch Laggan, which, as Mr. Jamieson has now ascertained, agrees precisely in level with the lowest of all the shelves, and where there are unequivocal signs of a river having flowed out for a considerable period.

Dr. Hooker has described some parallel terraces, very analogous in their aspect to those of Glen Roy, as existing in the higher valleys of the Himalaya, of which his pencil has given us several graphic illustrations. He believes these Indian shelves to have originated on the borders of glacier-lakes, the barriers of which were usually formed by the ice and moraines of lateral or tributary glaciers, which descended into and crossed the main valley, as we have supposed in the case of Glen Roy; but others he ascribes to the terminal moraine of the principal glacier itself, which had retreated during a series of milder seasons, so as to leave an interval between the ice and the terminal moraine. This interspace caused by the melting of ice becomes filled with water and forms a lake, the drainage of which usually takes place by percolation through the porous parts of the moraine, and not by a stream overflowing that barrier. Such a glacier-lake Dr. Hooker actually found in existence near the head of the Yangma valley in the Himalaya. It was moreover partially bounded by recently formed marginal terraces or parallel roads, implying changes of level in the barrier of ice and moraine matter.[18]

It has been sometimes objected to the hypothesis of glacier-lakes, as applied to the case of Glen Roy, that the shelves must have taken a very long period for their formation. Such a lapse of time, it is said, might be consistent with the theory of pauses or stationary periods in the rise of the land during an intermittent upward movement, but it is hardly compatible with the idea of so precarious and fluctuating a barrier as a mass of ice. But the reader will have seen that the permanency of level in such glacier-lakes has no necessary connection with minor changes in the height of the supposed dam of ice. If a glacier descending from higher mountains through a tributary glen enters the main valley in which there happens to be no glacier, the river is arrested in its course and a lake is formed. The dam may be constantly repaired and may vary in height several hundreds of feet without affecting the level of the lake, so long as the surplus waters escape over a 'col' or parting ridge of rock. The height at which the waters remain stationary is determined solely by the elevation of the 'col,' and not by the barrier of ice, provided the barrier is higher than the 'col.'

But if we embrace the theory of glacier-lakes, we must be prepared to assume not only that the sea had nothing to do with the original formation of the 'parallel roads,' but that it has never, since the disappearance of the lakes, risen in any one of the glens up to the level of the lowest shelf, which is about 850 feet high; for in that case the remarkable persistency and integrity of the roads and deltas, before described, must have been impaired.

We have seen (p. 244) that fifty miles to the south of Lochaber, the glacier formations of Lanarkshire with marine shells of arctic character have been traced to the height of 524 feet. About fifty miles to the south-east in Perthshire are those stratified clays and sands, near Killiecrankie, which were once supposed to be of submarine origin, and which in that case would imply the former submergence of what is now dry land to the extent of 1,550 feet, or several hundred feet beyond the highest of the parallel roads. Even granting that these laminated drifts may have had a different origin, as above suggested (p. 246), there are still many facts connected with the distribution of erratics and the striation of rocks in Scotland which are not easily accounted for without supposing the country to have sunk, since the era of continental ice, to a greater depth than 525 feet, the highest point to which marine shells have yet been traced.

After what was said of the pressure and abrading power of a general crust of ice, like that now covering Greenland, it is almost superfluous to say that the parallel roads must have been of later date than such a state of things, for every trace of them must have been obliterated by the movement of such a mass of ice. It is no less clear, that as no glacier-lakes can now exist in Greenland, so there could have been none in Scotland, when the mountains were covered with one great crust of ice. It may, however, be contended, that the parallel roads were produced when the general crust of ice first gave place to a period of separate glaciers, and that no period of deep submergence ever intervened in Lochaber after the time of the lakes. Even in that case, however, it is difficult not to suppose that the Glen Roy country participated in the downward movement which sank part of Lanarkshire 525 feet beneath the sea, subsequently to the first great glaciation of Scotland (p. 244). Yet that amount of subsidence might have occurred, and even a more considerable one, without causing the sea to rise to the level of the lowest shelf, or to a height of 850 feet above the present sea-level.

This is a question on which I am not prepared at present to offer a decided opinion.

Whether the horizontally of the shelves or terrace-lines is really as perfect as has been generally assumed, is a point which will require to be tested by a more accurate trigonometrical survey than has yet been made. The preservation of precisely the same level in the lowest line throughout the Glens of Roy, Spean and Laggan, for a distance of twenty miles east and west, and ten or twelve miles north and south, would be very wonderful if ascertained with mathematical precision. Mr. Jamieson, after making in 1862 several measurements with a spirit-level, has been led to suspect a rise in the lowest shelf of one foot in a mile in a direction from west to east, or from the mouth of Glen Roy to a point six miles east of it in Glen Spean. To confirm such observations, and to determine whether a similar rate of rise continues eastward as far as the pass of Muckul, would be most important.

On the whole, I conclude that the Glen Roy terrace-lines and those of some neighbouring valleys, were formed on the borders of glacier-lakes, in times long subsequent to the principal glaciation of Scotland. They may perhaps have been nearly as late, especially the lowest of the shelves, as that portion of the post-pliocene period in which man coexisted in Europe with the mammoth.

  1. Zeitschrift der GeologischenGesellschaft, Berlin, 1860.
  2. Journal of Royal Geographical Society, vol. xxiii. p. 145, 1853.
  3. Principles of Geology, ch. xxx.
  4. Heer, Recherches sur la Végétation du Pays tertiaire, &c., 1861, p. 178.
  5. Ancient Sea Margins, Edinburgh, 1848. Glacial Phenomena, Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, April 1853, and January 1855.
  6. Smith of Jordanhill, Quarterly Geological Journal, vol. vi. p. 387, 1850.
  7. See papers by Prestwich, Proceedings of the Geological Society, vol. ii. p. 545; and T. F. Jamieson, Geological Quarterly Journal, vol. xvi.
  8. Jamieson, Geological Quarterly Journal, vol. xvi. p. 360.
  9. Charpentier, Essai sur les Glaciers, p. 63, 1841.
  10. Proceedings of the Geological Society, vol. iii. p. 344.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Maclaren, Geology of Fife, &c., p. 220.
  12. Proceedings of the Geological Society, vol. iii. p. 337.
  13. Jamieson, Quarterly Geological Journal, vol. xvi. p. 349.
  14. Memoirs of the Wernerian Society, Edinburgh, vol. iv. p. 58.
  15. Ibid., vol. iv. p. 63.
  16. Another detached shelf also occurs at Kilfinnan. (See Map, p. 254.)
  17. Ancient Sea Margins, p. 114, by R. Chambers.
  18. Hooker, Himalaya Journal, vol. i. p. 242; ii. pp. 119, 121, 166. I have also profited by the author's personal explanations.