The first of these periods, when mankind was in the lower status of savagery, comprises the epoch when articulate speech was being developed. Our ancestors of this epoch inhabited a necessarily restricted tropical territory, and subsistedSpeech. upon raw nuts and fruits. They had no knowledge of the uses of fire. All existing races of men had advanced beyond this condition before the opening of the historical period.
The Middle Period of Savagery began with a knowledge of the uses of fire. This wonderful discovery enabled the developing race to extend its habitat almost indefinitely, and to include flesh, and in particular fish, in its regular dietary. Man could now leave the forests, and wander along Fire. the shores and rivers, migrating to climates less enervating than those to which he had previously been confined. Doubtless he became an expert fisher, but he was as yet poorly equipped for hunting, being provided, probably, with no weapon more formidable than a crude hatchet and a roughly fashioned spear. The primitive races of Australia and Polynesia had not advanced beyond this middle status of savagery when they were discovered a few generations ago. It is obvious, then, that in dealing with the further progress of nascent civilization we have to do with certain favoured portions of the race, which sought out new territories and developed new capacities while many tribes of their quondam peers remained static and hence by comparison seemed to retrograde.
The next great epochal discovery, in virtue of which a portion of the race advanced to the Upper Status of Savagery, was that of the bow and arrow,—a truly wonderful implement. The possessor of this device could bring down the fleetest animal and could defend himself against the Bow and arrow. most predatory. He could provide himself not only with food but with materials for clothing and for tent-making, and thus could migrate at will back from the seas and large rivers, and far into inhospitable but invigorating temperate and sub-Arctic regions. The meat diet, now for the first time freely available, probably contributed, along with the stimulating climate, to increase the physical vigour and courage of this highest savage, thus urging him along the paths of progress. Nevertheless many tribes came thus far and no further, as witness the Athapascans of the Hudson’s Bay Territory and the Indians of the valley of the Columbia.
We now come to the marvellous discovery that enabled our ancestor to make such advances upon the social conditions of his forbears as to entitle him, in the estimate of his remote descendants, to be considered as putting savagery behind him and as entering upon the Lower Status of Pottery.Barbarism. The discovery in question had to do with the practice of the art of making pottery (see Ceramics). Hitherto man had been possessed of no permanent utensils that could withstand the action of fire. He could not readily boil water except by some such cumbersome method as the dropping of heated stones into a wooden or skin receptacle. The effect upon his dietary of having at hand earthen vessels in which meat and herbs could be boiled over a fire must have been momentous. Various meats and many vegetables become highly palatable when boiled that are almost or quite inedible when merely roasted before a fire. Bones, sinews and even hides may be made to give up a modicum of nutriment in this way; and doubtless barbaric man, before whom starvation always loomed threateningly, found the crude pot an almost perennial refuge. And of course its use as a cooking utensil was only one of many ways in which the newly discovered mechanism exerted a civilizing influence.
The next great progressive movement, which carried man into the Middle Status of Barbarism, is associated with the domestication of animals in the Eastern hemisphere, and with the use of irrigation in cultivating the soil and of adobe bricks and stone in architecture in the Western Domestic animals. hemisphere. The dog was probably the first animal to be domesticated, but the sheep, the ox, the camel and the horse were doubtless added in relatively rapid succession, so soon as the idea that captive animals could be of service had been clearly conceived. Man now became a herdsman, no longer dependent for food upon the precarious chase of wild animals. Milk, procurable at all seasons, made a highly important addition to his dietary. With the aid of camel and horse he could traverse wide areas hitherto impassable, and come in contact with distant peoples. Thus commerce came to play an extended rôle in the dissemination of both commodities and ideas. In particular the nascent civilization of the Mediterranean region fell heir to numerous products of farther Asia,—gums, spices, oils, and most important of all, the cereals. The cultivation of the latter gave the finishing touch to a comprehensive and varied diet, while emphasizing the value of a fixed abode. For the first time it now became possible for large numbers of people to form localized communities. A natural consequence was the elaboration of political systems, which, however, proceeded along lines already suggested by the experience of earlier epochs. All this tended to establish and emphasize the idea of nationality, based primarily on blood-relationship; and at the same time to develop within the community itself the idea of property,—that is to say, of valuable or desirable commodities which have come into the possession of an individual through his enterprise or labour, and which should therefore be subject to his voluntary disposal. At an earlier stage of development, all property had been of communal, not of individual, ownership. It appears, then, that our mid-period barbarian had attained—if the verbal contradiction be permitted—a relatively high stage of civilization.
There remained, however, one master craft of which he had no conception. This was the art of smelting iron. When, ultimately, his descendants learned the wonderful secrets of that art, they rose in consequence to the Upper Status of Barbarism. This culminating practical invention, Iron. it will be observed, is the first of the great discoveries with which we have to do that was not primarily concerned with the question of man’s food supply. Iron, to be sure, has abundant uses in the same connexion, but its most direct and obvious utilities have to do with weapons of war and with implements calculated to promote such arts of peace as house-building, road-making and the construction of vehicles. Wood and stone could now be fashioned as never before. Houses could be built and cities walled with unexampled facility; to say nothing of the making of a multitude of minor implements and utensils hitherto quite unknown, or at best rare and costly. Nor must we overlook the aesthetic influence of edged implements, with which wood and stone could readily be sculptured when placed in the hands of a race that had long been accustomed to scratch the semblance of living forms on bone or ivory and to fashion crude images of clay. In a word, man, the “tool-making animal,” was now for the first time provided with tools worthy of his wonderful hands and yet more wonderful brain.
Thus through the application of one revolutionary invention after another, the most advanced races of men had arrived, after long ages of effort, at a relatively high stage of development. A very wide range of experiences had enabled man to evolve a complex body politic, based on a fairly secure social basis, and his brain had correspondingly developed into a relatively efficient and stable organ of thought. But as yet he had devised no means of communicating freely with other people at a distance except through the medium of verbal messages; nor had he any method by which he could transmit his experiences to posterity more securely than by fugitive and fallible oral traditions. A vague symbolization of his achievements was preserved from generation to generation in myth-tale and epic, but he knew not how to make permanent record of his history. Until he could devise a means to make such record, he must remain, in the estimate of his descendants, a barbarian, though he might be admitted to have become a highly organized and even in a broad sense a cultured being.
At length, however, this last barrier was broken. Some race or races devised a method of symbolizing events and ultimately of making even abstruse ideas tangible by means of graphic signs. In other words, a system of writing was developed. Man thus achieved a virtualWriting. conquest over time