Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/530

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
514
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Now, that is pleasant reading for me, because, in 1863, I committed myself to the assertion that the Neanderthal skull was "the most pithecoid of human crania yet discovered" yet that "in no sense can the Neanderthal bones be regarded as the remains of a human being intermediate between men and apes"[1] and that "the fossil remains of man hitherto discovered do not seem to me to take us appreciably nearer to that lower pithecoid form, by the modification of which he has, probably, become what he is."Ibid., p. 159.

As the evidence stood seven and twenty years ago, in fact, it would have been imprudent to assume that the Neanderthal skull was anything but a case of sporadic reversion. But, in my anxiety not to overstate my case, I understated it. The Neanderthaloid race is "appreciably nearer," though the approximation is but slight. In the words of M. Fraipont:

The distance which separates the man of Spy from the modern anthropoid ape is undoubtedly enormous; between the man of Spy and the Dryopithecus it is a little less. But we must be permitted to point out that, if the man of the later Quaternary age is the stock whence existing races have sprung, he has traveled a very great way.

From the data now obtained, it is permissible to believe that we shall be able to pursue the ancestral type of men and the anthropoid apes still further, perhaps as far as the Eocene and even beyond.[2]

These conclusions hold good, whatever the age of the men of Spy; but they possess a peculiar interest if we admit, as I think on the evidence must be admitted, that these human fossils are of Pleistocene age. For, after all due limitations, they give us some, however dim, insight into the rate of evolution of the human species, and indicate that it has not taken place at a much faster or slower pace than that of other mammalia. And, if that is so, we are warranted in the supposition that the genus homo, if not the species which the courtesy or the irony of naturalists has dubbed sapiens, was represented in Pliocene, or even in Miocene times. But I do not know by what osteological peculiarities it could be determined whether the Pliocene or Miocene man was sufficiently sapient to speak or not;[3] and whether, or not, he answered to the


  1. Man's Place in Nature, pp. 156, 157.
  2. "Where, then, must we look for primeval man? Was the oldest Homo sapiens Pliocene or Miocene, or yet more ancient? In still older strata do the fossilized bones of an ape more anthropoid or a man more pithecoid than any yet known await the researches of some unborn paleontologist?" (Man's Place in Nature, p. 150.)
  3. I am perplexed by the importance attached by some to the presence or absence of the so-called "genial" elevations. Does any one suppose that the existence of the geniohyo-glossus muscle, which plays so large a part in the movements of the tongue, depends on that of these elevations?