Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
577
CAVE

of the Eskimos. It is to a considerable extent confirmed by a consideration of the animals found in the caves. The reindeer and musk sheep afford food to the Eskimos now in the Arctic Circle, just as they afforded it to the cave-men in Europe; and both these animals have been traced by their remains from the Pyrenees to the north-east through Europe and Asia as far as the very regions in which they now live. The mammoth and bison also have been tracked by their remains in the frozen river gravels and morasses through Siberia as far as the American side of Bering Strait. Palaeolithic man appeared in Europe with the arctic mammalia, lived in Europe with them, and in all human probability retreated to the north-east along with them.

There are refuse heaps in north-eastern Siberia containing the remains of the mammoth and woolly rhinoceros as well as the reindeer and musk sheep, which may be referred with equal justice to the cave-men or to the Eskimos.

Ancient Geography of Europe.—The remains of man and the animals described in the preceding paragraphs have been introduced into the caves either by man or the wild beasts, or by streams of water, which may or may not now occupy their ancient courses; and the fact that the same species are to be met with in the caves of France, Switzerland and Britain implies that our island formed part of the continent, and that there were no physical barriers to prevent their migration from the Alps as far to the north-west as Ireland.

The same conclusion may be gathered from the exploration of caves in the south of Europe, which has resulted in the discovery of African species, in Gibraltar, Sicily and Malta. In the first of these the spotted hyena, the serval and Kaffre cat lie side by side with the horse, grizzly bear and slender rhinoceros (R. leptorhinus)—see Falconer’s Palaeontographical Memoirs. To these African animals inhabiting the Iberian peninsula in the Pleistocene age, Lartet has added the African elephant and striped hyena, found in a stratum of gravel near Madrid, along with flint implements. The hippopotamus, spotted hyena and African elephant occur in the caves of Sicily, and imply that in ancient times there was a continuity of land between that spot and Africa, just as the presence of the Elephas antiquus proves the non-existence of the Straits of Messina during a portion, to say the least, of the Pleistocene age. A small species of hippopotamus (H. Pentlandi) occurs in incredible abundance in the Sicilian caves. It has also been found in those of Malta along with an extinct pigmy elephant species (E. Melitensis). It has also been discovered in Candia and in the Peloponnese. For these animals to have found their way to these regions, a continuity of land is necessary. The view advanced by Dr Falconer and Admiral Spratt, that Europe was formerly connected with Africa by a bridge of land extending southwards from Sicily, is fully borne out by these considerations. The present physical geography of the Mediterranean has been produced by a depression of land to the amount of about 400 fathoms, by which the Sicilo-African and Ibero-African barriers have been submerged, and Crete and Malta separated from the South-European continent. It is extremely probable that this submergence took place at the same time that the adjoining sea-bottom was elevated to about the same amount so as to constitute that region now known as the Sahara.

Pleistocene Caves of the Americas and Australia.—The Pleistocene caverns of the Euro-Asiatic continent contain the progenitors of the animals now alive in some parts of the Old World, the extinct forms being closely allied to those now living in the same geographical provinces. Those of Brazil and of Pennsylvania present us with animals whose nearest analogues are to be found in North and South America, such as sloths, armadillos and agoutis. Those, again, of Australia present us with marsupials (metatheria) only, allied to, or identical with, those of that most ancient continent. The extinct forms in each case are mainly those of the larger animals, which, from their large size, and low fecundity, would be specially liable to be beaten in the battle for life by their smaller and more fertile contemporaries, and less likely to survive those changes in their environment which have undoubtedly taken place in the long lapse of ages. It is, therefore, certain that the mammalian life in the Old, New and Australian worlds, was as well marked out into geographical provinces in the Pleistocene age as at the present time, and that it has been continuous in these areas from that remote time to the present day.

Prehistoric Caves of Neolithic Age in Europe.—The prehistoric caves are distinguished from Pleistocene by their containing the remains of domestic animals, and by the wild animals to which they have afforded shelter belonging to living species. They are divisible into three groups according to the traces of man which occur in them—into the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages.

The Neolithic caves are widely spread throughout Europe, and have been used as the habitations and tombs of the early races who invaded Europe from the East with their flocks and herds. The first of these systematically explored was at Perthi Chwareu, near the village of Llandegla, Denbighshire, in 1869. In the following years five others were discovered close by, as well as a second group in the neighbourhood of Cefn on the banks of the Elwy. They contained polished celts, flint flakes, rude pottery and human skeletons, along with the broken bones of the pig, dog, horse, Celtic shorthorn and goat. The remains of the wild animals belong to the wolf, fox, badger, bear, wild boar, stag, roe, hare and rabbit. Most of the bones were broken or cut, and the whole group was obviously an accumulation which resulted from these caves having been used as dwellings. They had subsequently been used for burial. The human skeletons in them were of all ages, from infancy to old age; and the interments had been successive until each became filled. The bodies were buried in the contracted posture which is so characteristic of Neolithic interments generally. The men to whom these skeletons belonged were a short race, the tallest being about 5 ft. 6 in., and the shortest 4 ft. 10 in.; their skulls are orthognathic, or not presenting jaws advancing beyond a vertical line dropped from the forehead, in shape long or oval, and of fair average capacity. The face was oval, and the cheek bones were not prominent. Some of the individuals were characterized by a peculiar flattening of the shinbone (platycnemism), which probably stood in relation to the free action of the foot that was not hampered by the use of a rigid sole or sandal. This, however, cannot be looked upon as a race character, or as a tendency towards a simian type of leg. These Neolithic cave-dwellers have been proved to be identical in physique with the builders of the cairns and tumuli which lie scattered over the face of Great Britain and Ireland. (See Thurnam, Crania Britannica.) They have also been met with abundantly in France. In the Caverne de l’Homme Mort, for example, in the department of Lozère, explored in 1871, the association of remains was of precisely the same nature as those mentioned above, and the human skeletons were of the same small type. The same class of remains has also been discovered in Gibraltar, in the caves of Windmill Hill, and some others. The human remains examined by Busk are of precisely the same type as those of Denbighshire. In the work of Don Manuel Gongora J. Martinez (Antiguedades prehistoricas de Andalusia, 1868), several interments are described in the cave of Murcielagos, which penetrates the limestone out of which the grand scenery of the southern Sierra Nevada has been to a great extent carved. In one place a group of three skeletons was met with, one of which was adorned with a plain coronet of gold, and clad in a tunic made of esparto grass finely plaited, so as to form a pattern like that on some of the gold ornaments in Etruscan tombs. In a second spot farther within, twelve skeletons formed a semicircle round one covered with a tunic of skin, and wearing a necklace of esparto grass, ear-rings of black stone, and ornaments of shell and wild boar tusk. There were other articles of plaited esparto grass, such as baskets and sandals. There were also flint flakes, polished-stone axes, implements of bone and wood, together with pottery of the same type as that from Gibraltar. The same class of remains have been discovered in the Woman’s Cave, near Alhama de Granada. From the physical identity of the human remains in all these cases it maybe inferred that in the Neolithic Age a long-headed,