Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/882

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

plateau, and at points within the same, capped by the covering of lava and ash. The explorations of Yucatan did not lend support to the supposition that the banks have been built up through simple organic accretion. The evidences of recent uplift were abundant, and it further appeared that a gradual subsidence followed the elevation.


Geometry of Aboriginal Mounds.—In his paper on the Circular, Square, and Octagonal Earthworks of Ohio, Mr. Cyrus Thomas gives the results of recent surveys of those works, and corrects the errors into which Squier and Davis fell in exaggerating the geometrical accuracy of the structures. The close approximation to such regularity in certain of the square and circular works is admitted as beyond question; but none of them are perfect, while the octagons are less regular. Their characteristics are pronounced essentially aboriginal. There is nothing in them or connected with them contradictory to the theory of their Indian origin except it be the single fact that a few of them approached very nearly to true geometrical figures. It is admitted both that Indians can lay out true circles of moderate size, and that they are less able now to perform many things which necessity formerly compelled them to practice. No valid reason can be presented why Indians taught by necessity and practice could not lay off by the eye and by means at hand figures with which they were familiar more correctly than the white man without instruments.


An Indian Ball-Player's Training.—As described by Mr. James Mooney, the training of the Cherokee ball-players includes a course of precautionary measures. "They bathe their limbs with a decoction of Tephrosia Virginiana, or catgut, in order to render their muscles tough like the roots of that plant. They bathe themselves with a decoction of the small rush (Juneus tenuis), which grows by the roadside, because its stalks are always erect and will not lie flat upon the ground, however much they may be stamped and trodden upon. In the same way they bathe with a decoction of the wild crab-apple, or the iron-wood, because the trunks of these trees, even when thrown down, are supported and kept from the ground by their spreading tops. To make themselves more supple, they whip themselves with the tough stalks of the wátakû, or star-grass, or with switches made from the bark of a hickory sapling which has grown up from a log that has fallen across it, the bark being taken from the bend thus produced in the sapling. After the first scratching the player renders himself an object of terror to his opponent by eating a rattlesnake which has been killed and cooked by the shaman. He rubs himself with an eel-skin to make himself slippery like the eel, and rubs each limb down once with the fore and hind leg of a turtle, because the legs of that animal are remarkably stout. He applies to the shaman to conjure a dangerous opponent so that he may be unable to see the ball in its flight, or may dislocate a wrist or break a leg. Sometimes the shaman draws upon the ground an armless figure of his rival with a hole where the heart should be. Into this bole he drops two black beads, covers them with earth, and stamps upon them, and thus the dreaded rival is doomed, unless (and this is always the saving clause) his own shaman has taken precautions against such a result, or the one in whose behalf the charm is made has rendered the incantation unavailing by a violation of some one of the interminable rules of the gaktunta."



Prof. Huxley was the recipient of the Linnæan medal at the anniversary meeting of the Linnæan Society on Saturday, May 24th. This medal was instituted three years since, with a view of conferring honor on distinguished biologists. In replying to the president, Prof. Huxley said the aim of his life had been in the words of the motto of the society: "Naturæ discere mores"(to learn the ways of nature). He had endeavored to show the fundamental unity of plant life and of animal life; to make use of hypotheses as ladders or scaffoldings to be discarded, perhaps somewhat ungratefully, when no longer of use; and to pursue truth regardless of incidental consequences.

In order to investigate their botanical and medical knowledge, and the theories on which their practice is based, Mr. James Mooney spent several weeks in intimate association with the Cherokee doctors. He concluded that the aggregate botanical knowledge of the whole profession is represented by about eight hundred species;