While the severe climatic conditions that preceded the neolithic age restricted the presence of man to the more temperate parts of the globe, it may be assumed that in neolithic times there was nothing to prevent him from occupying the greater part of the earth’s surface, short of the neighbourhood of the two poles. Thus it may be expected that an age of stone will be found, if looked for, in every part of the globe. So far as our present knowledge goes, all is in favour of the use of stone before metals, in all countries. The one material requires no special treatment before being adapted to man’s use, while the other demands considerable knowledge, even if reasoning power have but little place in the process. Thus the probabilities are here borne out by the facts. In the extensive “kitchen-middens” of Japan are found great numbers of chert implements mixed with pottery of a primitive type, recalling that of European early Bronze Age barrows, while the succeeding periods of metal are equally clear. Even in the Far East, therefore, the same sequence is to be observed. In China, the conditions are more obscure. The superstitious regard for ancestors has prevented the exploration of ancient tombs in that country, and thus systematic search has been impossible, while the precise details of the discovery of such relics as have come to light are difficult to obtain. In spite of the assertion that China had no Stone Age, it is surely more probable, in the absence of exact knowledge, that she followed the normal course. Modern territorial divisions, more especially if they are independent of the natural physical conditions of the land, such as mountain ranges, great rivers and the like, have but little value in considering the race problems of remote ages. If, therefore, we find that, in the countries bordering on what is now the Chinese empire, the ancient inhabitants followed the same broad lines of culture that are evident elsewhere, it is easy to believe that China too was normal in this respect. The negroes and Bantu races of Africa also were thought to have passed direct to the use of iron, perhaps owing to the existence on the Nile of a civilization of great antiquity, which enabled them to pass over the intervening stages. Inherently improbable, this is now known not to have been the case. Stone implements, whether ground or merely chipped, have been discovered on the Congo, and more recently on the Zambezi. It is quite true that in both cases they are found in superficial deposits, and may be of any age. But here again the probabilities are greatly in favour of their having been in use before iron was known. While stone tools, such as knives or arrow-heads, may possess qualities that render them superior to bronze or copper, it is certain that once the working of iron was understood, its superiority to stone would at once be perceived, and the stone tools be discarded. There can be little doubt that investigations in Central Africa will demonstrate that the same course was followed there as elsewhere. In South Africa, in Egypt and in Somaliland large quantities of stone implements have been discovered, and of the great age of most of them there can be no doubt. Some from the banks of the Nile have even been claimed as “eolithic”; but here, as in Europe, We can only say that the case is not proven: General Pitt-Rivers did good service in Egypt by discovering among the stratified gravels near Thebes a number of rude flints bearing unmistakeable signs of human workmanship, but he described them merely as of “palaeolithic type,” and deplored the absence of mammalian remains in the gravels. At the same time he pointed out that the bulk of the implements claimed as palaeolithic (and, it may be, correctly) are found on the surface, and therefore cannot be dissociated from the surface types; hence form alone cannot be trusted to determine age. Further, we are by no means well informed as to the value of patination in flints found on the surface in Egypt. The depth and intensity of the patination would no doubt have a direct relation to the age of the implement, if only it could be proved that all of them had been equally subjected to the conditions that produced the discoloration. But this is clearly impossible. Some implements may conceivably have been continuously on the surface of the desert from the time they were made, and have been acted upon by the sun and air for many thousands of years, while others, though of equal age, may have been covered by sand or otherwise protected for a large part of the intervening centuries. Patination, therefore, like form, can only claim a conditional value. It is at the best an uncertain indication of age, as great age may be possible without it. Similarly, in Somaliland, the condition of the implements is very curious, and in some respects puzzling, while their forms resemble those from the Drift in Europe. But as to the climatic conditions we know nothing, and it is therefore useless to speculate on the condition of the stones; as to the geology we know next to nothing, and no mammalian remains give us a helping hand, while the form alone is a dangerous foundation for argument.
Investigations in the more remote parts of the world, though they may occasionally produce some startling novelty in the history of mankind, can scarcely be expected to furnish the same trustworthy continuous story as is to Europe and America. be found in the European area. Here history provides us with a fairly truthful account of what has happened for a period varying from two to three thousand years, or in some places even longer, and we are thus able to judge whether particular discoveries come into the historical stage or not. In more primitive lands where history (if there be any) partakes more of the character of mythical tradition, the task of defining the period to which particular discoveries belong is rendered much more difficult. In America, where history may be said to have begun five hundred years ago, such a feat is of course impossible, until a great deal of work on comparative lines has been accomplished. The accounts of the civilization of Mexico and Peru at the time of the Spanish conquest show a state of culture which in some respects must have put the Spaniards to shame, while in others it was primitive in the extreme. As regards internal communications, the working of gold and copper, and the manufacture and decoration of pottery, these American kingdoms were on a level with all but the most advanced nations; but of history in the true sense of the word they have none. In spite of this, it is by no means a hopeless task to disentangle the apparent confusion of their archaeology. It is now fairly well known what were the races or tribes that inhabited particular districts, and it is thus easy to make a corpus of the types adopted by the various peoples. This is the first certain step in the application of archaeological method. By degrees, as these types become familiar to the trained eye, it will not be difficult to arrange them in a progressive series, from the earliest in style to the latest. That this will be done by the archaeologists of the American continent, even with the present scanty materials, there can be little doubt. Numbers of young and enthusiastic workers have now had a good training in exploration in historical lands, and will usefully employ their experience on the antiquities of their own country. But if once a key be found to the ancient Mexican inscriptions, so plentifully scattered through the ancient monuments, it may be that enlightenment will come even more suddenly and more surely. The one problem that is of the greatest interest still awaits solution, viz. whether there is any relation, in culture or more remotely in race, between the inhabitants of ancient America and those of Europe or Asia. One thing is certain, that if there be any connexion, it is of