Open main menu

Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/84

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Part II.


I.—Ethnography as applied to Architectural Art.

Ethnology, though one of the youngest, is perhaps neither the least beautiful nor the least attractive of that fair sisterhood of sciences, whose birth has rewarded the patient industry and inflexible love of truth which characterizes the philosophy of the present day. It takes up the history of the world at the point where it is left by its elder sister Geology, and, following the same line of argument, strives to reduce to the same scientific mode of expression the apparent chaos of facts which have hitherto been looked upon as inexplicable by the general observer.

It is only within the limits of the present century that Geology was rescued from the dreams of cataclysms and convulsions which formed the staple of the science in the last century; and that step by step, by slow degrees, rocks have been classified and phenomena explained. All that picturesque wildness with which the materials seemed at first sight to be distributed over the world's surface has been reduced to order, and they now lie arranged as clearly and as certainly in the mind of a geologist, as if they had been squared by the tool of a mason and placed in order by the hand of a mechanic. So it is with Ethnology. Race has succeeded race;—all have been disturbed, some obliterated—many contorted—and sometimes the older, apparently, superimposed upon the newer. All at first sight is chaos and confusion, and it seems almost hopeless to attempt to unravel the mysteries of the long-forgotten past. It is true nevertheless, in Ethnology, as in the sister science, that no change on the world's surface has taken place Avitliout leaving its mark. A race may be obliterated, or only crop up at the edge of some great basin of population ; but it has left its traces, either as fossil remains in the shape of buildings or works, or as impressions on language or on the arts of those who supplanted the perishing race. When these are read,—when all the phenomena are gathered together and classified, we find the same perfection of Order, the same beautiful simplicity of law pervading the same complex variety of results, which characterize all the phenomena of nature, and the knowledge of which is the highest reward of intellectual exertion.

Language has hitherto been the great instrument of analysis which has been employed to elucidate the affiliation of races; and the present state of the science may be said to be almost entirely due to the acumen