Natural History Review/1862/New Researches respecting the Co-existence of Man with the Great Fossil Mammals, regarded as Characteristic of the latest Geological Period
The town of Aurignac, situated in the arrondissement of St. Gaudens (Haute Garonne), is placed nearly on the summit of one of five eminences, constituting a hilly range, whose geognostic formation and upheaved strata manifest its relations with the dislocated spurs of the Pyrenean system. The contour of this oreographic projection, in which the strata of the chalk and of the nummulitic or supracretaceous rock are not always inclined in the same direction, differs but little from that of the tertiary hills which rise below it to the west. The confused and uninformed traveller, consequently, approaching Aurignac firom that side, would not perceiye the transition which is manifested under his feet, were not his attention awakened by a sudden change in the nature of the rocks and by the evidences of dislocation presented in the road-cuttings.
The road leading from Aurignac to the little town of Boulogne in the same arrondissement, runs pretty nearly from east to west, on the southern flank of the mountain of Portel. On the opposite side, to the south, rises the mountain of Fajoles, forming an elongated, saddle-shaped ridge, which runs in pretty nearly the same direction, and which, though of lower eleyation, and nowhere precipitous, is nevertheless completey isolated from all the hydrographic influences of the district. Between these two eminences, or mountains, is a contracted yalley along whose bottom runs the brook of Rodes or Arrodes, which, on reaching, a littte more to the west, the foot of the mountain of Portel, turns sharply round to the north, aud after running a few kilometres to the north-west joins the Louge, a small riyer which takes its rise on the plateau of Lanemézan.
Following the rapid descent of the road from Aurignac to Boulogne for about a mile, (1600 metres), the traveller reaches a point whence, on the opposite side of the valley, the low ridge of the mountain of Fajoles does not rise more than about twenty metres above the stream of the Rodes. On the northern slope of this eminence may be seen an escarpment, more or less natural, of the nummulitic rock (calcaire à melonies of M. Leymerie), and on the side of this a sort of niche, or shallow grotto, whose arched entrance looks to the N.W. The floor of this excavation, which is now completely cleared out, is not more than 21 metres in horizontal depth, with an extreme width of 3 metres at the entrance. It is situated about 13 or 14 metres above the level of the stream. Outside the grotto, and a little below it, the calcareous soil forms a sort of platform, some metres in extent, slightly inclined towards the brook, and leaning on the south against the escarpment of the rock, the perpendicularity of which had, probably, originally been in part produced by the hand of man.
Ten years ago the existence of this cavern was unknown. Its approaches were concealed under a heap, or talus, formed of fragments of the rock and vegetable soil, probably thrown down solely by atmospheric agency. The place, nevertheless, was often resorted to by the sportsmen of the neighbourhood, owing to the circumstance that at a point in the outer heap of earth, pretty nearly on a level with the vault of the grotto, there was a hole, into which the rabbits, when hotly pursued, were accustomed to take refuge.
A labouring man, J. B. Bonnenmaison, employed in the breaking of stones for the repair of the neighbouring road, was led to introduce his hand and arm into this hole, whence, to his great surprise, he brought out a bone of considerable size. At once suspecting the existence of a subterranean cavity, and curious to find out what it contained, he dug away part of the talus below the opening. At the end of some hours he came upon a large slab of stone, of no great thickness, and placed vertically in front of an arched opening, which it closed competely, leaving only a hole, resorted to by the rabbits, uncovered. When this slab was removed, he noticed a certain quantity of bones and skulls, which he at once recognized as human. The bones, which belonged to several skeletons, were found partly imbedded in a loose soil, which might have been introduced into the sepulchre at the time of interment.
This discovery of Bonnemaison's was quickly noised abroad; the curious in such matters flocked to the place, and various conjectures were formed to explain the occurrence of such an abundance of human remains in a situation so remote from any actual habitation. The older inhabitants of the district recalled the circumstance that at a remote period, a band of coiners had been surprised in the exercise of their nefarious industry, in a solitary house at no great distance from the spot. This was hdd sufficient to justify the popular impression that these gentry had been also guilty of numerous murders, the traces of which they had concealed by depositing the bodies of their victims in this cavity, whose existence was known only to themselves.
In order to put a stop to all these conjectures, Dr. Amiel, at that time Mayor of Aurignac, caused all the human remains to be collected, and re-interred in the parish burial-ground. But previous to this translation of the relics, he ascertained to his own satisfaction, by counting the number of certain homologous portions of the skeletons, that they must have belonged to 17 individuals. Some of the characteristic forms found among them appeared to him referrible to females; whilst other portions, from their incomplete ossification, denoted the presence of young subjects below the age of puberty. It should also be remarked that among the human bones taken from the interior of the cavern, J. B. Bonnemaison distinguished several teeth of large mammals, both carnivorous and herbivorous. He also collected in the same situation, eighteen small discs, pierced in the centre, doubtless that they might be strung together as a necklace or bracelet. These discs, which were of a whitish compact substance, fell into various hands; some were sent, with some mammalian teeth, to M. Leymerie, by M. Vieu, superintendent of roads and bridges at Aurignac, whose researches in this district of the department have afforded numerous and useful materials for the study of the paleontology of the Haute-Garonne.
Shortly afterwards M. Leymerie transmitted to me the mammalian teeth, with the information respecting them with which he had himself been furnished, viz., that they had been found on the mountain of Fajoles. Amongst them I recognized the molars of the Horse, Ox, (Aurochs?) a canine tooth of the Hyena, another canine which appeared to me to belong the great cave Felis, two other teeth of a smaller carnivore, probably a Fox, and, lastly, the point of a Stag's antler.
Subsequently, on my journey to Toulouse, M. Leymerie showed me the small perforated, discoid bodies, which had been sent to him at the same time with the above teeth. The hurried examination that we made of these objects, whose origin had not then been indicated with sufficient precision, did not allow of our ascertaining the material of which they were composed, nor of forming any opinion with respect to the purposes for which they might be intended. But M. Leymerie having been so obliging as to forward them to me at Paris, through our common friend M. Collomb, I have been enabled to determine their structure, which appears to me to be analogous with that of certain marine shells. The slightly convex face of some of the discs, though worn and half polished by artificial rubbing, still affords some traces of the projecting costæ of the shell of a species of Cardium. My first surmise to this effect has since been confirmed by the stricter examination, which M. Deshayes, at my request, has been good enough to make of one of these bodies. All remembrance of Bonnemaison's disooyery was nearly lost, when, passing throogh Aurignac in October, 1860, the circumstances attending it were related to me by M. Vieu, with details not before given, and which led me to decide upon visiting the place. I went there, accompanied by three workmen, one of whom was the original discoverer of the cave. The sepulchral vault, in the partially cleared state it had been left by him, was at that time, on the level of the floor, 21 metres deep, and 21 metres high, measured at the centre of the arched entrance, which, as has been before stated, looked towards the N.W. The accompanying wood-cut represents a section of this cavity, or grotto, as it was at the time of my visit, and before the removal of the layer B, composed of loose earth and fragments of rock, in which I still found several human bones imbedded, together with flint implements, worked portions of Reindeer's horn, and a considerable number of mammalian bones, in a state, comparatively speaking, of remarkable preservation.
In the figure, the layer B in the interior of the grotto is represented as continuous with the external layer C, in which the very numerous mammalian bones were all found broken, or even comminuted, and moreover sometimes burnt or gnawed by carnivorous animals. When I inquired of Bonnemaison whether, at the time he discovered the cave, the continuity of the interior layer B with that on the exterior marked C, were not interrupted by the vertical stone slab, by which the entrance was closed, he was unable to give any positive reply. The two parallel dotted lines therefore, indicating in F the place occupied by the slab, have been continued only to the surface of the layer as it existed at the time of my visit. If the stone slab had been preserved, it would have been sufficient to put it in its original place to ascertain whether it extended below the level of the bone layer, but unfortunately Bonnemaison had found it convenient to break it up for road material. However this may be, the perfect state of preservation of the bones imbedded in the interior layer of the grotto, denotes that the carnivorous animals, the Hyenas amongst others, had at no time been able to get in. It may be supposed that at each occasion of a burial the slab was removed for the moment, and replaced as soon as the ceremony was finished. The most rational explanation that can be offered of the presence of the remains of animals within the sepulchre is, that they nad been introduced as part of the funeral rites,—a proceeding of which analogous instances may be found in many of the sepulchres of primordial times.
As regards the posture of the skeletons, and the direction in which they lay, I was imable to obtain any information from their discoverer, it is evident that the floor of the grotto was not wide enough to allow the bodies of seventeen individuals to be placed side by side in the extended posture, and that its height was insufficient to admit of their being heaped one upon another. But the semi- circular configuration of the sepulchre affords good ground for the supposition that the attitude given to the bodies was that which is well known to have been adopted in many of the sepulchres of primitive times; that is to say, with the body in a sitting or crouching posture, and bent downwards upon itself. This practice would not only economize the space occupied by each individual, but would also, according to some archæologists, realize the symbolic thought of restoring to the earth,—our common mother,—the body of the man who had ceased to live, in the same posture that it had before his birth, in the bosom of his individual mother. It is for this reason, that in the figure of the cavern I have represented three skeletons in the crouching posture, warning the reader, at the same time, that the representation is altogether hypothetical.
Having noted these particulars respecting the circumstances connected with the first discovery of the sepulchre, I proceeded to the examination of the disturbed layer of loose earth remaining in it. The first strokes of the pickaxe disclosed a tooth and several human bones, after which was turned up an implement or weapon, made of Stag's or Reindeer's horn, in the form of a slender tapering spike, about 9 inches long, and carefully rounded. The lower extremity was about half-an-inch wide, and bevelled off on each side, as if intended to be fitted into a handle; the point was broken off and could not be recovered. Close to this were found half of a Horse's jawbone, some teeth of the Aurochs, the lower jaw of a Reindeer, and some entire bones of the great care Bear, (Ursus spelæus). Fox, &c., &c. Outside the caye, where the heap of fallen earth D still remained, and whose upper border is indicated by a dotted line, I noticed, at the base, at E, a blackish layer, eyidently composed of ashes, and of fragments of charcoal and of earth like the surrounding vegetable soil. On breaking with a hammer the surface of this layer of ashes and charcoal, I detached some taurine teeth (Aurochs), teeth of the Reindeer, and some fragments of bone, blackened by the action of fire.
Upon this, the methodical and complete exploration of all the layers, more or less compact or loose, and both within and without the cave, was at once undertaken. The work, which was performed by intelligent men, and constantly under my own superintendence, was completed on two occasions, with an interval of several days. The following are the results obtained:—
The lower layer E, composed of ashes and charcoal, taken as a starting point among such a complexily of circumstances as are evidenced in this locality, indicates in reality the presence of man and the existence of a fire-place or hearth, around which it must be supposed he made his repasts. This hearth was several square metres in extent, and constituted a sort of platform formed of the nummulitic rock, fragments of which had been laid so as to level the natural inequalities of the surface; which here and there presented a good many very thin plates of fissile sandstone, most of which were reddened by the action of fire. The nearest locality at the present day, where this fissile stone is found, is a distance of some hundreds of metres on the other side of the valley, at the foot of the mountain of Portel.
The layer of ashes and charcoal, whose proportionate thickness is exaggerated in the figure, was not in reality more than from six to eight inches thick, and it gradually thinned off towards the entrance of the grotto, into which it did not extend. There were found in it a very great number of teeth, principally of herbivorous animals, together with many hundreds of fragments of their bones. Some of the bones were carbonized, and others simply reddened from having been exposed to a low heat. The greater number did not appear to have been subjected to the action of fire. The majority of the fragments were those of long bones having medullary cavities, and of these, almost all appeared to have been broken in a uniform manner. A great many of those which had not been exposed to fire bore the marked impress of the teeth of a carnivorous beast, which had left only the thick and compact shafts of the great bones of the Aurochs and Rhinoceros. The discovery, among the very ashes of the fire, of the coprolites of the Hyæna showed that it was that powerful carnivore which had doubtless taken advantage of the absence of man to devour the remains of his repasts. It is also to the voracity of the Hyenas that we may attribute the almost complete absence, either on the hearth or in the ossiferous deposit about it, of the vertebræ and other spongy portions of the herbivorous bones.
Besides the peculiar mode in which they are broken, denoting that it had been done for the purpose of extracting the marrow, there may be sometimes observed, on the surface of the bones, scratches and shallow cuts, which appear to have been caused by the edge of some instrument employed to remove the flesh.
In fact, we collected among the very ashes on the hearth a hundred pieces of silex, some of no definite form, but the greater number fashioned after the type so universally met with and designated by archæologists under the name of "knives." It would appear that a portion at least of these implements had been manufactured on the spot, as we found, in the neighbourhood of the hearth, the nuclei of the blocks from which splinters of various dimensions had been struck off. We also found, in the same situation, a stone of a circular form, flattened on two sides with a central depression on each, and constituted of a rock not found in this region or the Pyrenees, and which, from the explanation of its object given me by M. Steinhauer, Conservator of the Ethnographic Museum at Copenhagen, was used for renewing, by skilful blows, the edges of the flint knives. The central depression on each flat side was intended for the fingers and thumb in the required manœuvre. We also procured from among the ashes two portions of silex broken so as to have numerous facets, which have been regarded by archæologists as missiles [sling-stones], and which are rendered more destructive by the numerous angles presented on the surface.
Besides these flint arms and knives there were also found, both in the ashes and in the superjacent ossiferous layer, many other instruments of divers forms, and made for the most part of the more compact portion of the Reindeer's horn. Some of these are in the form of arrow-heads, simply lanceolate, and without wings or recurrent barbs, such as are found in arrow-heads of a more recent period. All are broken immediately below the widened base of the lance-shaped portion. Some of these arrows appear to have been reddened by the action of fire, as if they had been left in the flesh of the animal when it was cooked. One of the largest among them exhibits, on its two opposite surfaces, some impressions in the form of a cross, which, though with some hesitation, may be regarded as having been caused by the teeth of a carnivorous ammal in its endeavours to draw the arrow from the wound (??). One of these implements, in the form of a very slender and sharp-pointed bodkin, appears to have been made from the horn of the Roebuck, which is far more compact and harder, than the horn of the Stag or the Reindeer. It is in a very good state of preservation, and would still serve to make holes in toe skins of animals for the purpose of joining them together with a coarse kind of suture. This implement was found in the ossiferous layer above the ashes.
Another instrument, also of Roebuck horn, has an equally sharp point, but is not so tapering that it could serve for a needle or awl, and it might be asked whether it could not have been employed for the purpose of tatooing(?).
Other implements of various dimensions and in the form of a thinnish blade, represent, according to M. Steinhauer, the polishers, made of Reindeer-horn, used by the Laplanders to smooth the coarse sutures of their skin garments. In support of this supposition it may be noticed that on one of these instruments, the marks of repeated friction may be observed on both sides.
Another instrument, of pretty nearly the same shape, appeared to me intended for quite a different purpose. On one side, the surface presents all the roughness of the Reindeer's horn, but it has nevertheless been carefully polished, and it is sensibly curved and concave in a longitudinal direction. The opposite side is convex and polished throughout.
Another blade of Reindeer horn which is unfortunately broken at each end, exhibits, on one side which is carefully polished, two series of equidistant transverse lines, separated by an interval in the middle of the fragment. On each edge, also, may be observed a series of shallow notches at pretty regular distances apart. These marks and notches suggest the notion that they might be intended to represent numeral signs expressive of various values, or perhaps belonging to distinct objects.
Another portion, of which I am unable to explain the use, is a portion of Reindeer's horn, in the middle of which, at the point where an antler sprang from the stem, is an oval hole or perforation, whose side is marked with grooves resembling, except that they do not run in a spiral direction, the worm of a screw. This fragment was found in the layer of ashes.
The handle of some implement made of Reindeer's horn was found in the interior of the cave, beneath the space where the bodies had been deposited, and in close juxtaposition with several flint implements, worked with more care than those left in the fireplace; a circumstance leading to the supposition that all these choicer objects had formed a sort of votive offering. The handle in question present, near the base, the mark of the place whence the lowest, or brow antler had been removed, in order to render the grasp more convenient; higher up, is the truncated base of the second antler, which is hollowed out, for some unknown purpose; and at the end of the stem portion, is the principal opening for the fixing of the weapon into the handle, and which is continued to the base of the horn. One of the flint implements above alluded to is a knife manufactured with particular care, and appearing never to have been used.
One of the most curious of the relics discovered in this exploration is the canine tooth of a young Great Cave Bear (Ursus spelæus). The crown has been entirely deprived of enamel, afterwards thinned on the two sides, and a groove running along the concave border simulates a sort of buccal commissure, or the opening of a bird's beak; an oblong fossette visible above and a little behind this, in the situation that would have been occupied by the eye, and surmounted by a superciliary line, completed an ill-defined resemblance to some animal form, perhaps a bird's head. The maker, or, as one might say, the artist, who certainly had at his disposal large canines of the same species of Bear, chose that of a young individual, no doubt because the still existing pulp cavity enabled him to complete the perforation with less trouble. The tooth, in fact, is perforated from end to end, so as to admit of its being suspended by some means. It was found very near the entrance of the cave, and exactly at the spot where Bonnemaison, after the removal of the stone slab, had subsequently collected the rubbish from the interior. It had probably been origiually interred with one of the bodies as a token of affection, or as an amulet, and was overlooked when all the human remains were removed by M. Amiel.
It has been remarked that some of the flint implements must have been manufactured on the spot. The same may be said of some articles in Reindeer horn; for we collected, partly among the ashes, partly in the superjacent layer of rubbish, the remains of the horns of that animal, from which the antlers and other portions, likely to be made useful as implements, had been removed.
The experience acquired by this primitive people had even thus early taught them that the shed horns, which at the present day are preferred by cutlers, are better nourished and more compact than those taken in the growing state from the head of the living animal. A single horn of a young individual was found, which had been cut off immediately after the death of the animal, doubtless that its solitary point might be used. It was still attached by the base to the frontal bone, and at and below the seat of fracture the striped lines of numerous cuts made with the blunt edge of a flint tool may readily be perceived.
Among the ashes we also found the disjointed laminæ of the molars of the Elephant (E. primigenius). In these laminæ, from which the enamel is detached, the ivory appears to have been very much altered by the action of fire. It is impossible to surmise the purpose for which the«e were intended; but there can be no doubt that the teeth had been thus disjointed purposely, for in the rubbish above the ashes we found the basal portions or two molars of the Elephant from which it was dear that the upper portion, in which the laminæ are longer and wider, had been detached. Particles of charcoal are still adherent to one of these fragments. This is all that we discovered of Elephant's remains.
The portion of the ossiferous rubbish B, comprised between the fireplace, or inferior layer of ashes and charcoal, and the rubbly mass of vegetable earth above, which, before Bonnemaison's discovery, concealed the entrance of the cave, was nearly a metre in thickness. In it were found, as in the ash-layer, many bones of Herbivora, always broken and comminuted in the same manner, and some also gnawed by Hyænas. In the same situation, likewise, we met with scattered particles of charcoal; the bones of the Carnivora were tolerably abundant. These were often entire, and, when broken, the fracture did not present the uniform character so remarkable in the herbivorous bone; and none of the carnivorous remains were gnawed, or exhibited any marks of the teeth of the Hyæna. Nor on these bones could any of the scratches or incisions made with cutting instruments be perceived, which are bo often noticed in the herbivorous bones. In explanation also of the presence in this situation of a considerable quantity of the remains of Camivora of different sizes, it may be suggested that these animals served principally to furnish skins and furs for clothing and the protection of man against the weather. Nevertheless it should not do forgotten that in the interior of the cave, among the human skeletons and in the soil beneath them, the bones of Carnivora were the most numerous; whence it may be supposed that these animals entered largely into the funeral rites, of which analogous instances may be seen in sepulchres of a more recent period.
One circumstance struck me as remarkable: that although we collected a great many lower jaws, almost entire, of Camivora, and, in the interior of the cave, some of herbivorous animals, not a single upper jaw in the entire state, nor any considerable portion of the cranium of any of these animals were met with. Must we conclude that the crania in general had been broken to pieces for the extraction of the brain? The North American Indians, according to Hearne, as quoted by M. Morlot, prepared the skins of animals with a lye composed of the brain and marrow. "The Samoiedes," says Pallas, "split up the bones of the Reindeer, in order to devour the marrow quite fresh and raw. Their favourite food consists of the brain taken raw and steaming from the skull; and they also devour in the raw state, the young horns of the Reindeer, when they are beginning to sprout."
In the soil within the cave at B, were discovered, as has been said, everal human bones which had been left buried in it, after the removal which had been effected, several years before, of the skeletons interred in the burial ground of Aurignac. It was in the same situation that were found the most higmy finished flint implements and the finest specimen of worked Reindeer's horn, as well as an almost entire horn of that animal The only bones of Herbivora that we obtained in a good state of preservation, were also procured in the same deposit. The carnivorous bones constituted the majority, and amongst these, those of the Fox were the most numerous, after which came those of the Great Cave Bear (Ursus spelæus). Of this species, one specimen must have been introduced entire, since we found in very close continuity, the various bones of its skeleton. Amongst the individuals of this great species of Bear whose remains had been conveyed into the cave by the hand of man, one must have been a female in an advanced stage of gestation, for in the loose earth outside the cave we met with several remains of a foetus nearly at ihe period of birth. Whilst the bones of the Herbivora found outside the cave were all broken and comminuted, burnt and gnawed, both those found in the ashes, as well as those lying in the layer of earth above the ash-layer, the bones found in the interior had, on the contrary, been well preserved, and, in particular, showed no mark of their having been attacked by the teeth of Carnivora. Whence it may be concluded that these parts of animals had been introduced into the sepulchre for a special purpose; and, at the same time, that the entrance had been constantly closed against the Hyænas.
The general assemblage of the Mammalian remains collected at Aurignac, shows that the Carnivora, in number of species, were almost equal to the Herbivora. Subjoined are lists of both, with an approximate valuation of the number of individuals referrible to each species.
|Number of individuals.|
Among the Oamivora, Felis spælea was represented only by a single canine and a premolar bearing the mark of a fracture caused by some violence. From this it may be presumed that the body of the animal was never conveyed to the spot, and that the teeth had been brought with a special intention, and the rather so because both were collected within the sepulchre, and one of them (the canine sent to M. Leymerie) beyond (à travers) the human bones at the first discovery of the place by Bonnemaison.
As the two molars of the Elephant are also the only relics of that species, their being brought by man to the place where they were found, may also be referred to some customary purpose. And the same may be said of the two incisors of the Wild Boar, likewise the only relics of that species discoverable among such a considerable heap of bones.
I have omitted to enumerate in the list of Herbivora two half-jaws of a Field Mouse (Campagnol), and the calcaneum of a Hare, which may have been accidentally introduced independently of human agency.
It is well known that an aversion to the flesh of the Hare, is still more general than that against pork. The Hare was regarded as impure by several of the nations of antiquity. Cæsar (De Bell. Gallic. lib. v. c. 12) states that among the inhabitants of Britain the use of its flesh as food was forbidden. The Laplanders at the present day always regard it with horror, and among several nations of our part of Europe the flesh of the Hare is still despised. The remains of the Hare and Rabbit are very abundant in the ossiferous breccias and in many of the caves in the Pyrenees; but I have met with no traces of their existence in the lower grotto of Massat, nor have their remains been noticed in other caverns which appear to have been inhabited exclusively by man. The bones of the Hare are not mentioned among those of the numerous animals recognized in the Danish Kitchen-middens, nor have any been found below the lacustrine habitations of Switzerland belonging to the various ages of Stone, Bronze, and Iron.
With respect to the Horse, it appears from the broken and comminuted state of his bones, resembling that in which those of the ruminants are found, that his flesh entered largely into the food of the aborigines of Aurignac. Nevertheless, at Massat, a station a little less ancient, the bones of the Horse are entirely ab- sent, whilst in the cavern of Bise, which was used as a habitation by man at a period when the Reindeer still lived in the south of France, ihe broken bones of the Horse were, according to M. Tournal, equally abundant with those of the ruminants. The Sarmatians, says an ancient historian, were distinguished from other nations, and in particular from the Celts, by their taste and predilection for the blood and flesh of the Horse, and for Mare's milk. The Horse is wanting in the Stone age in Switzerland and in Denmark. Nevertheless, in Switzerland, in the 10th century of our era, horse-flesh was served at the table of the monks of St. Gall, at a period, when amongst other European nations its use as food was forbidden under pain of excommunication.
The Rhinoceros appears also to have been eaten by the Pyrenean aborigines. Some molar teeth, and a certain number of bones belonging to a young individnal, were found at Aurignac in the layer of earth above the ashes. All the vertebræ and the spongy parts of the long bones had disappeared, devoured without doubt by the Hyænas; but the thick and compact portions of the shafts of the long bones were left. They are broken in the same manner as those of the other Herbivora, and several fragments still bear the traces of cutting instruments. Another proof, moreover, that when the carcase of this young Rhinoceros was brought there, it had been recently slain, is afforded by the circumstance that its bones, after they had been broken by man, had afterwards been gnawed by the Hyænas, which would not have been the case had they not been still fresh and filled with their gelatinous juices.
The rarity of the common Deer and of the Irish Elk, represented at Aurignac, each by the remains of a single individual, might be explained perhaps by the great abundance of those of the Reindeer. We know that in a wild state, antipathies exist between certain closely allied species, or sometimes between species belonging to the same genus, which lead them to inhabit perfectly distinct districts.
The Aurochs and the Reindeer, then, are the species which have figured the most often in the feasts of whose relics we find only what was spared by the Hyænas. The situation of the hearth, on a plattorm overlooking the valley and stream of the Rode, allow also of the supposition that a great part of the bones might have been thrown to the bottom of the valley, whence they would afterwards be removed by the current of water, or decomposed by atmospheric agencies.
The long bones of these ruminants, so rich in marrow, have all been broken for its extraction. Not one has been forgotten; every bone, down to the first phalanges of the Stags and Reindeer, which, like the long bones, contain a medullary cavity, has been carefully opened. But the way in which this has been done is neither so methodical nor so elegant as that noticed in the Danish kitchen- middens, the bones in which have all been split with remarkable dexterity, in such a way as to expose, at a single blow, the whole of the marrow they contained: as may be seen for instance in the cannon-bone, or metatarsus, of the Aurochs, and of the Deer. At Aurignac, as well as at Massat, this mode of fracture is rather rare, and, in general, badly executed. This may be owing perhaps to the want of appropriate tools, which have not been found at either place, whilst the Danish aborigines were provided with them in abundance. At Aurignac, therefore, and also at Massat, the long bones are rarely split longitudinally; sometimes the ends have been broken off, but more often the bones appear in some way to have been broken and reduced to fragments by blows from a stone; and in these two situations we have found, in the neighbourhood of the remains of the banquet, the blocks and pebbles, which may have served for this operation.
It may be asked, how is it, that with arms in appearance so inefficient as those we have described, the aborigines of ancient Aquitania ventured to attack animals of the size of the Great Cave Bear, Rhinoceros, &c.?
It may be presumed, that, like the ancient Germani spoken of by Cæsar, the primitive inhabitants of the Pyrenees were acquainted with the art of constructing snares for these great animals, and of catching them in pits, concealed under the leaves and branches of trees. And besides this, their accurate knowledge of the most vulnerable points in the bodies of the animals, and the precision of their aim, either with the arrow or dart, might to a certain extent compensate for the imperfection of their rude weapons.
Such is the general statement of the observations it was possible to make during the complete and careful exploration of the Aurignac station. The circumstances to which they relate are complex; and their succession also indicates a considerable lapse of time. The first traces of living creatures met with in the loose and, speaking geologically, comparatively recent deposits, are those of man, proving that he had made a fireplace on the platform outside the little cave, whilst the thickness of the layer of ashes upon this site shows that it was inhabited for a long time, or, at any rate, that it was frequently visited.
The complete absence of any trace of fire in the interior of the grotto, and the state of comparative preservation of the bones found therein, denote that the cave, closed against all access from the exterior, must have been consecrated to human burials.
The fragmentary condition of the bones of certain animals, the mode in which they are broken, the marks of the teeth of the Hyæna on bones necessarily broken in their recent condition, even the distribution of the bones and their significant consecration, lead to the conclusion that the presence of these animals, and the deposition of all these remains, are due solely to human ageney. Neither the inclination of the ground, nor the surrounding hydrographical conditions, allow us to suppose that the remains could have been brought where they are found by natural causes.
The large amount of the remains of animals which had served as human food, and their presence at different levels, would indicate that successive assemblages had gathered at this spot. These assemblages probably took place on each occasion of the burial of the various individuals interred in the grotto. And it is highly probable also that the station ceased to be frequented when the sepulchral cave, being fully tenanted, would no longer afford space for further inhumations.
The gentle and prolonged action of simple atmospheric agencies, would be sufficient, in course of time, to account for the detachment of fragments from the escarpment of the adjacent rock, and the gradual accumulation of loose fallen earth, by which the site of the fire-place outside, and the slab closing the opening of the sepulchral cave, would be entirely covered.
The antiquity of the sepulchre cannot be ascertained either from tradition or history, nor from numismatic data, no document of this kind relating to it having been met with.
Regarding the subject archæologically, we perceive, in the absence of any kind of metal, and the common employment of implements and weapons of flint and bone, sufficient indications that the station of Aurignac should be referred to that ancient period of prehistoric times, denominated by antiquaries of the present day,—the age of Stone.
palæontologically, the human race of Aurignac belongs to the remotest antiquity, to which, up to the present tune, the existence of man or the vestiges of his industry have been traced. This race, in fact, was evidently contemporary with the Aurochs, Reindeer, Gigantic Elk, Rhinoceros, Hyæna, &c.; and, what is more, with the Great Cave Bear (U. spelæus), which would appear to have been the earliest to disappear in the group of great mammals, generally regarded as charactenstic of the last geological period.
But, it will be said, how does it happen, if the sepulchre of Aurignac is to be referred to a period, coeval witii the most Ancient geological deposits in which the products of human industry have been found,—the diluvial beds of St. Acheul and of Abbeville,— that the violent phenomena of that diluvian period, and the great cataclysm connected with those beds, have not affected the original conditions of this cavern? It is obvious, in fact, that nothing has been disturbed, and that, not only have a simple slab of stone a few centimetres in thickness, and a thin covering of loose earth, sufficed to preserve intact the sepulchre itself, but also that outside the cave, the relics of the funeral repasts and the various implements and arms left by the human inhabitants have not been disturbed.
It has been observed above that, from its isolated position in the mountain range of Aurignac, the mountain of Fajoles is completely protected from the streams and torrents of the surrounding country. Nevertheless, upon looking at the geological map of France, we find that the colour indicating the great alluvial deposits of the Garonne, Adour, &c., is wanting in the interval between the little valleys which commence on the plateau of Lanemézan. A very slight elevation of the borders of this plateau has been sufficient to protect the whole of the intermediate region, (more than 200 square leagues,) within which are comprised tbe district of Aurignac, firom the invasion of this diluvium or Pyrenean drift.
In the valley of ihe Garonne, the Pyrenean drift is the geological or synchronal equivalent of the diluvium of the Seine and of the diluvial deposits of Amiens, Abbeville, &c., because it is in these alluvial beds, that are found the remains of Elphas primigenius, Rhinoceros tichorinus, and other species regarded as characteristic of the diluvium.
But this phenomenon of torrential recrudescence, which has produced the diluvium, and whose cause must be sought in a sudden return to regional conditions of extreme temperature, has been manifested, only to a comparatively very trifling extent, in all the valleys descending from the plateau of Lanemézan. It is not astonishing therefore, to find that the sepulchre of Aurignac, if it existed at that time, should not have suffered any damage from the effect of the great floods of the period, seeing that, from its comparative altitude, it was placed beyond their reach.
I would, nevertheless, go farther, and say that viewed simply under the paæontological relations manifested in it, the sepulchre of Aurignac claims a very high comparative antiquity. In fact, the Great Cave Bear, which we there behold evidently cotemporary with man, has not, so far as I know, yet been found in France in the diluvium. It is true, that it has been mentioned in a list which has several times been reproduced, of the fossil Mammals discovered in the diluvial beds of Abbeville; but I have in vain tried to get at the source of the methodical determination upon which this statement rests, and from all that I have seen of its fossil remains the Bear, either from the valley of the Somme, or from the environs of Paris, belongs to a species, or to more than one species, very certainly distinct from Ursus spelæus. In the centre of France, and in England, all the remains of the latter species, not found in caverns, come from deposits, regarded by geologists as more ancient than the diluvium.
It will, doubtless, be objected to this, that the remains of Ursus spelæus occur very abundantly in most of the caverns of the continent, and even in some of those in England; but, at the same time, it must not be forgotten that the date of the filling of these caverns is evidently to be placed beyond the epoch assigned by geologists to the diluvial phenomena, because in several of these caverns, at any rate, the remains of Mammals are met with, which are sometimes included in the lists of species referred to the latter phases of the tertiary period.
We see then, that if we rely solely upon the consideration of the palæontological concomitances, the result we should arrive at would be, that the sepulchre of Aurignac should be referred, together with all the circumstances accompanying it, to an epoch anterior to the diluvium properly so termed. In confining the force of this remark simply within the limits of its inductive value, I do not think I am losing sight of the reserve with which new propositions should be introduced, when they as yet repose only on negative observations.
- In the patois of the country: Mountagno de las Najoles, mountain of Beeches. But at the present time not a single beech tree is to be found either on this moantain or in the surrounding country, nor does there exist any remembrance or tradition even of their formerly having flourished there. The arboreal vegetation of any region is subject to great variations in the progress of time, even independently of any change in the climatal conditions. The valuable researches of Professor J. Steenstrup on the Skövmosses, or Forest Turf-bogs of Denmark, have shown, that in that country there have been three distinct periods of arboreal vegetation since the existence of man: 1, that of the Pine; 2, that of the Oak; and 3, that of the Beech, which continues to the present day. The soil, in process of time, becomes exhausted of the elements more especially adapted to the nutrition of forests of one kind or another. The disappearance of this yegetation involves that of the species of animals which feed upon the foliage. The Cock of the Woods, which was common in Denmark in the Pine-period, no loneer exists there. The discoveries of M. Tournal in the caverns of the Aude shows that at a certain epoch in the pre-historic period, man consumed for food the Stag, Reindeer, Wild Goat, Helix nemoralis, &c. At the present day the Stag is no longer found in the south of France, the Reindeer has retired to the Arctic regions of Europe, the Wild Goat is scarcely represented by rare descendants on the lofty peaks of the Alps and Pyrenees, whilst Helix nemorolis has entirely disappeared with the forests from that part of the country.
- According to the report of Bonnemaison, the mass of human bones, at the time they were removed from the cavern, included two entire crania, but when M. Amiel reached the spot these were no longer so. The operations of removal, transport, and second inhumation, would necessarily occasion other alterations in bones rendered so fragile from their antiquity; but nevertheless the examination of these remains, such as they were, appeared to be very desirable. Measurements taken from the bones of so many individuals, would have afforded, to some extent, the means of deducing the average stature and proportions of this unknown race; and from the fragments of the face and skull, indications of some value, respecting the general form of the head, might also have been obtained. But unfortunately no one at Aurignac, not even the sexton, after an interval of eight years, retained any recollection of the precise spot at which these human remains had been deposited in a oommon trench.
- M. de Vibraye has recently obtained twenty-four small perforated discs of the same material and form. These were found in a cromlech in the department of the Losère aboat five miles from Mende; this cromlech, which had probably been used as a sepulchre, contained human remains, together with some bones of animals of existing species. There were also found, at the same time and place, a long flint-knife, with some spear- and arrow-heads of the same material, These latter objects, from the finish of their manufacture, and the other accessories of the burial place, indicated an epoch far more recent than that of the Aurignac cavern. Perforated beads of the same form but in different materials, are not rare in the necklaces and other ornaments found amongst the Assyrian antiquities.
It is well known, that at St. Acheul near Amiens, in the same diluvial beds that have furnished so many flint implements, there have also been collected a considerable number of beads, mostly formed of the polyparies of Coscinopora globularis Beads of this kind, many of which are pierced artificially, are not rare in collections, and they may be seen in the Louvre, the Cluny Museum, and at the Jardin des Plantes, alongside the flint implements brought from St. Acheul. I had noticed in the Assyrian Museum in the Louvre, similar beads which had been found in the excavations at Khorsabad, on the supposed site of the ancient Nineveh. Having obtained from M. Barbet de Jouy, one of the keepers of the Louvre, permission to make a closer comparison between the Khorsabad beads and others recently brought by M. de Vibraye from St. Acheul, we thought it better, in order to give an authoritative support to the surmise we had entertained, to refer the matter to M. Milne-Edwards, Member of the Institute and Dean of the Faculty of Sciences. The result of the examination made by this competent judge was to show an identity of form and species between at least one of the perforated corals brought from the ruins of Nineveh, and those found in the diluvium at St. Acheul.
[These bead-like Foraminifera, Orbitolina ooncava, according to Mr. Prestwich, (Phil. Trans. Vol. 150, p. 290), occur abundantly in the Chalk, and they are found some whole and some perforated, so that the latter condition can no longer be regarded as artificial—Eds.]
M. de Longperrier had also pointed out to me a complete identity of form between the obsidian-knives of Mexico, and those of the same material found by M. Place in the foundations of Nineveh, where they had probably been deposited as a kind of votive offering.
At the time of the conquest of Mexico, Fernando Cortez observed that the native barbers cut the hair and beards of their customers with razors made of obsidian. Fragments of the same mineral and fashioned in a similar manner, have been collected on the field of Marathon, and may be seen in the Museum of Artillery, in the same glass cases with the flint arms of ancient Gaul. Thus we perceive the same form employed in the same manner, at extreme geographical distances apart, and at very considerable chronological intervals. "Man," says M. Troyon, (Habitations lacustrcs, &c.) "placed under analogous circumstances, acts in an analogous manner, irrespective of time or place."
- This kind of votive offering is remarked in the sepulchral monuments of the so-termed Druidical, or Celtic type, as well as in the more recent tumuli of Gaul, both before and after its subjugation by Rome. I have even been able to trace, in a sepulchre evidently not more ancient than the 10th century of our era, a continuation of this ancient custom of burying with the defunct his horse, arms, objects of affection, broken earthenware, trophies of the chase, and the bones of animals both wild and domesticated.
- This attitude of the body bent upon itself, has been noticed in most of the primordial sepultures of the north and centre of Europe, and it has been also observed in the foundations of Babylon. Diodorus Siculus informs us that it was practised by the Troglodytes, a pastoral people of Ethiopia. In more recent times it is seen in ose among various peoples in America, and some of the South Sea Islands.
- Travellers relate that among people who live chiefly on the products of the chase, the marrow of the bones of the Herbivora is highly appreciated and sometimes reserved for the chiefs. Among the Laps and Greenlanders the marrow taken warm from the animal is held one of the greatest delicacies, and is presented as a mark of honour, according to M. Morlot, to the visitor and Government officers.—Morlot, Etudes geologico-archeologiques en Danemarch et en Suisse.
- Implements for the same purpose have been figured in the "Atlas of Antiquities of the Stone Age of Denmark," by M. Worsaae. M. Alphonse Milne-Edwards has also informed me that he saw similar implements in one of tho museums in Holland recently visited by him.
- In the sepulchres of the ancient Livonians, we are informed by M. Frederick Troyon, that pierced teeth of the Bear are found, which had been worn no doubt as charms or amulets.
- It may be asked, why, if Elephants existed at that period at the foot of the Pyrenees, arrows or other implements made of the ivory of their tasks are not met with. "The Ethiopians in the army of Xerxes," says Herodotos, "used long arrows made of cane, pointed, instead of iron, with a sharp stone. They had also javelins armed with the horns of the Roe-deer (?) pointed and fashioned like the head of a lance." Elephants nevertheless existed in Ethiopia, as is proved by the circumstance that certain nations in that country were termed Elephantophagi. The Phœnicians, moreover, fetched ivory from Ethiopia, with which they traded amongst other nations. But the Ethiopians, like the sub-pyrenean people, had the common sense to perceive that ivory was more difficult to work, more brittle, and less durable than the horns of the various species of Cervus.
- This circumstance, made me think that in the wild state the Hyena might have a repugnance to feeding on the flesh of Carnivora; but M. Jules Verreaux who, when at the Cape of Good Hope, fed domesticated Hyænas with the flesh of the dog, has assured me that Hyænas when retiring in troops into caverns, sometimes devour that of their comrades who may fall sick. Mr. Brown, in his journey to Darfour, relates that when an individual in a troop of Hyænas is wounded, the rest fall upon and devour him. Dr. Buckland also was of opinion that in the ossiferous caverns in England, even the bones of the Hyæna nad been gnawed by their congeners.
- In this respect, however, an exception must be made in the case of two fragments of a young Ursus spelæus, on one of which more especially (part of the pelvis) may be seen numerous streaks, which it might be supposed had been produced by the repeated action of a tool employed to remove the flesh.
- The Laplanders of the present day are not so dainty as we may suppose the aborigines of Aquitaine to have been, for, according to J. Acerbi, (Voyage au Cap Nord) they eat indifferenty the Bear, Wolf, Fox, Otter, and Seal.
- In the lower grotto of Massat, another ancient station, where man has left numerous relics of his feasts, the Boar is also represented by by a single molar. Certain nations of antiquity had, at an ear]y epoch, a marked repugnance to the flesh of the Wild Boor or of the Pig. Their flesh, it is well known, was excluded from the diet of the Egyptians and of the Jews, who, nevertheless, had domesticated the species. The Scythians, according to Herodotus, abstained from the flesh of the Hog, and the Gallo-Greeks held it in equal aversion. How can the fact be explained, then, that the ancient Gauls, who had affinities with both those people, used pork as a considerable part of their food? Observations made in the ancient stations of the aborigines of Denmark, and beneath the lacustrine habitations of the Stone period in Switzerland, have shown that those primitive races also fed largely upon the flesh of the Wild Boar.
- Though he states, nevertheless, that the Britons bred the Hare, Fowl, and Goose, though forbidden to use them as food, "animi, voluptatisque causi."
- Vid. Nat. Hist. Rev. 1861, p. 489.
- Several African nations eat the flesh of the Rhinoceros, and amongst others the Hottentots. "The Shangallas," says Bruce, "are very fond of its flesh, although it is very hard, almost tasteless, and with a strong musky smell; the most delicate part in their estimation is the sole of the foot, which like that of the Elephant and Camel, is of a cartilaginous and soft snbstance." According to M. Boitard (Dict. Univ. d'Hist. Nat.) the Indians hunt the Rhinoceros for their horns, and to eat their flesh. The Chinese are of opinion that after swallowsnests, the eggs of the lizard, and puppies, there is nothing so delicate as the tail of the Rhinoceros, and a kind of jelly made from the skin of its belly.
- In spite of all the attention which I have devoted to the examination of the bones found at Aurignac, and to the other circumstantial evidences afforded at that place, I have failed to detect the faintest indication of the existence of the Dog, that habitual companion of man in the chase, in all climates and in every state of barbarism. Under the piles belonging to the stone age in Switzerland, the remains of a dimmutive race of Dogs have been met with. In studying the fauna of the Danish kitchen-middens. Prof. Steenstrup has satisfied himself, from the way in which certain bones have been gnawed, that the Dog must have been the latest companion of the aborigines, and he has even found reason to believe it may sometimes have been eaten by them. At Massat (Ariége), a station far more recent than that of Aurignac, I have myself fancied that I could perceive indications of the presence of the Dog, from the way in which some of the herbivorous bones had been gnawed.
- The Shangallas, according to Bruce, kill the Rhinoceros with the worst arrows it is possible for a people making use of arms at all to have; and they flay it afterwards with knives no better than their arrows.
- The chemical examination by M. Delesse of the Aurignac bones, furnishes a further excellent means for determining the question of contemporaneity. The respective analyses which he has made demonstrate that the bones of the Reindeer, Rhinoceros, Aurochs, &c. have retained precisely the same proportion of nitrogen, as the homan bones from the same locality.
- I am here obliged to repeat what I have already said elsewhere: viz., that the grand words, revolution of the globe, cataclysm, universal perturbation, general catastrophes, &c., have been introduced by a sort of abuse into the technical language of Science, seeing that they tend to give an exaggerated significance to phenomena, which geographically have been very limited in extent. These phenomena, however stupendous they may appear to us, as manifested within the limits of our sensible horizon, are reduced to very little when brought down by actual calculation to their relative importance as regards the whole surface of the globe. Everything moreover, indicates that the successive production of these partial accidents forms part of the normal conditions of the course of nature, and that the great harmony seen in the physical and organic evolutions on the surface of the earth, has in no case been affected by them.
Aristotle fully comprehended those alternating movements of the land, which at several intervals have changed the relations of continents and seas. He also reduced to its regional proportions the deluge of Deucalion, so embellished and magnified by the fictions of poetry. This great naturalist appears to have been obliged to combat the fantastic conceptions of the revolutionist philosophers of his time; and the rude apostrophe which he addressed to them, "ridiculum enim est, propter parvas et momentaneas permutationes, movere ipsum totum." (Meteorol. 1. i. c. 2.), might well, after two thousand years, be applied to some among us, geologists and paleontologists of the present day.
- These alluvial beds or diluvium occupying the bottom of the valleys of the Garonne and of the Adour, should not be confounded with the pebbles and argillaceous deposits, lying at a higher level on terraces more or less continuous, ordinarily on the left side of the course of the rivers. These deposits, in which the granitic, ophitic, and other feldspathic pebbles, are almost always in a decomposed state, belong to a more ancient period, or that of the origincd excavation of the valleys. At the bottom of the valleys of the Garonne and of the Adour, the granitic, and other pebbles of the Pyrenean drift, are numerous and perfectly preserved. None of the kind are met with in the little valleys descending from the plateau of Lanemézan.