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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/519

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mediate affluents, poured their waters. In addition, it received the overflow of Lake Balkash, then much larger; and, probably, that of the inland Sea of Mongolia. At that time the level of the Sea of Aral stood at least sixty feet higher than it does at present.[1] Instead of the separate Black, Caspian, and Aral Seas, there was one vast Ponto-Aralian Mediterranean, which must have been prolonged into arms and fiords along the lower valleys of the Danube, the Volga (in the course of which Caspian shells are now found as far as the Kuma), the Ural, and the other affluent rivers—while it seems to have sent its overflow northward through the present basin of the Obi. At the same time, there is reason to believe that the northern coast of Asia, which everywhere shows signs of recent slow upheaval, was situated far to the south of its present position. The consequences of this state of things have an extremely important bearing on the question under discussion. In the first place, an insular climate must be substituted for the present extremely continental climate of west central Eurasia. That is an important fact in many ways. For example, the present eastern climatal limitations of the beech could not have existed, and if primitive Aryan goes back thus far, the arguments based upon the occurrence of its name in some Aryan languages and not in others lose their force. In the second place, the European and the Asiatic moieties of the great Eurasiatic plains were cut off from one another by the Ponto-Aralian Mediterranean and its prolongations. In the third place, direct access to Asia Minor, to the Caucasus, to the Persian highlands, and to Afghanistan, from the European moiety was completely barred; while the tribes of eastern central Asia were equally shut out from Persia and from India by huge mountain ranges and table-lands. Thus, if the blond long-head race existed so far back as the epoch in which the Ponto-Aralian Mediterranean had its full extension, space for its development, under the most favorable conditions, and free from any serious intrusion of foreign elements from Asia, was presented in northern and eastern Europe.

When the slow erosion of the passage of the Dardanelles drained the Ponto-Aralian waters into the Mediterranean, they must have everywhere fallen as near the level of the latter as the make of the country permitted, remaining, at first, connected by such straits as that of which the traces yet persist between the Black and the Caspian, the Caspian and the Aral Seas respectively. Then, the gradual elevation of the land of northern Siberia, bringing in its train a continental climate, with its dry air and intense summer heats, the loss by evaporation soon exceeded the greatly

  1. ↑ This is proved by the old shore-marks on the hill of Kashkanatao in the midst of the delta of the Oxus. Some authorities put the ancient level very much higher two hundred feet or more (Keane, Asia, p. 408).