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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/528

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

great Ice age. When a conflict of opinion of this kind obtains among reasonable and instructed men, it is generally a safe conclusion that the evidence for neither view is worth much. Certainly that is the result of my own cogitations with regard to both the hiatus doctrine (in its extreme form) and its opposite—though I think the latter by much the more likely to turn out right. But I hesitate to adopt it on the evidence which has been obtained up to this time.

No doubt, human bones and skulls of various types have been discovered in close proximity to palæolithic implements and to skeletons of Quaternary quadrupeds; no doubt, if the bones and skulls in question were not human, their contemporaneity would hardly have been questioned. But, since they are human, the demand for further evidence really need not be ascribed to mere conservative prejudice. Because the human biped differs from all other bipeds and quadrupeds, in the tendency to put his dead out of sight in various ways; commonly by burial. It is a habit worthy of all respect in itself, but generative of subtle traps and grievous pitfalls for the unwary investigator of human paleontology. For it may easily happen that the bones of him that "died o' Wednesday" may thus come to lie alongside the bones of animals that were extinct thousands of years before that Wednesday; and yet the interment may have been effected so many thousands of years ago that no outward sign betrays the difference in date. In all investigations of this kind, the most careful and critical study of the circumstances is needful if the results are to be accepted as perfectly trustworthy.

In the case of the remains found in a cave of the valley of the Neander, near Düsseldorf, half a century ago—the characters of which gave rise to a vast amount of discussion at that time and subsequently-the circumstances of the discovery were but vaguely known. The skeleton was met with in a deposit, the loess, which is known to be of Quaternary age; there was no evidence to show how it came there. Consequently, not only was its exact age justly and properly declared to be a matter of doubt; but those who, on scientific or other grounds, were inclined to minimize its importance could put forth plausible speculations about its nature which do not look so well under the light thrown by a more advanced science of anthropology. It could be and it was suggested that the Neanderthal skeleton was that of a strayed idiot; that the characters of the skull were the result of early synostosis or of late gout; and, in fact, any stick was good enough to beat the dog withal.

As some writings of mine on the subject led to my occupation of a prominent position among the belabored dogs of that day, I have taken a mild interest in watching the gradual rehabilitation of