Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/107

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WHO WAS PRIMITIVE MAN?

There are two great geological epochs in which we find remains of man. The first is that of the palæolithic or old chipped-flint weapons. The second is the modern or recent period, including the three so-called Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron ages. The first or palæolithic epoch is separated from the second or recent epoch by a vast and unknown lapse of time. We may place its date at somewhere about 200,000 years back. The remains of human origin belonging to it all occur under the conditions which we ordinarily describe as geological; they are found either in the drift deposits of our river-valleys or beneath the concreted floors of caves. They consist chiefly of rude stone weapons, in unpolished flint, chipped off by side-blows. What events caused the break in continuity between palæolithic and recent man in Europe we do not exactly know; but many of the best authorities believe that it was brought about by the coming on of the last glacial epoch (that is to say, the final cold spell of the recurrent pleistocene cycles). If these authorities are right, then at a period earlier than 200,000 years since, Europe was peopled by palæolithic men; and about 80,000 years ago these men were very gradually driven southward by the spread of the polar ice over the whole of the northern temperate zone. Be this as it may, however, we know, at any rate, that they belonged to a far earlier state of things, when the whole geographical condition of Europe differed in many respects from that which prevails at the present day.

On the other hand, recent man in Europe dates back, probably, only some twenty thousand years or so. His remains, whether of the Neolithic, the Bronze, or the Iron age, are found in tumuli still standing on the surface of the ground. Since his reappearance here, no notable changes have taken place in the face of the country. Instead of occurring in deep natural deposits or under the solid floors of primeval caves, his bones and his weapons are found in graves or mounds of recent make. The Neolithic men, though they used implements of stone, polished them exquisitely by grinding and smoothing, and were in all respects, save in the use of metals and a few similar particulars, as advanced as their successors of the Bronze age. No great gap in time separates them from the bronze and iron men, as a great gap separates all three from the palæolithic cave-men and drift-men. They were probably identical with two modern races, in three successive stages of their culture; whereas, the palæolithic race is cut off utterly from the recent race by a whole unknown interval, presumably representing the time during which Northern Europe was glaciated. Accordingly, with recent man we shall have nothing to do here.

Again, I must further premise that the very question which heads this paper—who was Primitive Man?—is in itself a somewhat irrational one. For of course, if we accept the evolutionist theory at all, there never was a first man. The early undifferentiated ancestors of men and anthropoid apes slowly developed along different lines toward