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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/357

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THE ARYAN QUESTION AND PREHISTORIC MAN.

But where was this home of the Aryans? When the labors of modern philologists began, Sanskrit was the most archaic of all the Aryan languages known to them. It appeared to present the qualifications required in the parental or primitive Aryan. Brilliant Uhlans made a charge at this opening. The scientific imagination seated the primitive Aryans in the valley of the Ganges; and showed, as in a vision, the successive columns, guided by enterprising Brahmans, which set out thence to people the regions of the Western world with Greeks and Celts and Germans. But the progress of philology itself sufficed to show that this Balaclava charge, however magnificent, was not profitable warfare. The internal evidence of the Vedas proved that their composers had not reached the Ganges. On the other hand, the comparison of Zend with Sanskrit left no alternative open to the assumption that these languages were modifications of an original Indo-Iranian tongue, spoken by a people of whom the Aryans of India and those of Persia were offshoots, and who could therefore be hardly lodged elsewhere than on the frontiers of both Persia and India—that is to say, somewhere in the region which is at present known under the names of Turkistan, Afghanistan, and Kafiristan. Thus far, it can hardly be doubted that we are well within the ground of which science has taken enduring possession. But the Uhlans were not content to remain within the lines of this surely won position. For some reason, which is not quite clear to me, they thought fit to restrict the home of the primitive Aryans to a particular part of the region in question; to lodge them amid the bleak heights of the long range of the Hindoo Koosh and on the inhospitable plateau of Pamir. From their hives in these secluded valleys and wind-swept wastes, successive swarms of Celts and Greco-Latins, Teutons and Slavs, were thrown off to settle, after long wanderings, in distant Europe. The Hindoo-KooshPamir theory, once enunciated, gradually hardened into a sort of dogma; and there have not been wanting theorists who laid down the routes of the successive bands of emigrants with as much confidence as if they had access to the records of the office of a primitive Aryan quartermaster-general. It is really singular to observe the deference which has been shown, and is yet sometimes shown, to a speculation which can, at best, claim to be regarded as nothing better than a somewhat risky working hypothesis.

Forty years ago, the credit of the Hindoo-Koosh-Pamir theory had risen almost to that of an axiom. The first person to instill doubt of its value into my mind was the late Robert Gordon Latham, a man of great learning and singular originality, whose attacks upon the Hindoo-Kooshite doctrine could scarcely have failed as completely as they did, if his great powers had been bestowed upon making his books not only worthy of being read, but