Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/774

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

lutely repel this view, for it discusses the possible existence of preadamites. Religion even seems disinterested in the question, for the Abbe Bourgeois, whose discoveries have given rise to M. de Mortillet's anthropopithecuses, and who has not rejected the theory, has always passed for a soundly orthodox priest, while he is known to be a keen observer. Nothing is against an impartial examination of the question. Only the objections may be offered to his views that no one has ever seen an anthropopithecus, the structure and characteristics of which have been worked out by pure reasoning alone, and that the distance that must have separated the precursor of man from man himself is calculated upon the extremely uncertain basis of the distance between quaternary and existing man.

According to M. de Mortillet's admission, quaternary man was himself gradually modified. "His blood," he says, "was infused into the new race, and may even reappear by atavism in our own times." The question is reduced to one of learning whether there existed in Europe, alongside of the miocene anthropomorphs of St. Gaudens, a primitive and rudimentary man of unknown physical qualities, who had industrial instinct enough to cut flints for his use. We are thus brought to the inquiry whether the instruments collected at Thénay by Abbé Bourgeois, and those discovered afterward in Portugal, in more recent but unquestionably tertiary formations, are authentic, or are not simple flakes and natural fragments that have been confounded with articles intentionally fabricated. Thénay, where the earlier of these flints were discovered, is in the Lower Miocene, an inferior formation to that of Sansan, in which the anthropomorphic fauna we have spoken of were included. The existence of the rhinoceros at the time of its formation is still in doubt, the mastodons had not yet appeared, the elephants were still far off; the hipparions, the predecessors of the horse, were not to make their appearance till long afterward. The marsupials had disappeared, and the carnivora were represented only by ambiguous types. None of the animal forms that were to accompany the earlier steps of man, and which he would have to contend against or tame, had showed themselves. Yet man is to be placed, in this rudest condition of nature, already in possession of fire! There is certainly little a priori probability of this. To be convinced of it, we need more evidence than has yet been presented to us—a few flints among many thousands of others, that may have been intentionally chipped. This is a little, but not enough, in view of the improbabilities which accumulate, against our putting faith in such indications.

The tertiary flints of Portugal are not calculated to add strength to the conviction. They come from an unquestionably tertiary freshwater formation of the recent Miocene age. The Portuguese flora of the age was characterized by the presence of elms, poplars, cinnamon trees, saponarias, and tamarinds, which testify to a mild and equable