Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/690

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

some contemporary tribes who are still living in the stone ages, and without domesticated animals or plants, will enable us to make a fair comparison between the condition of man before their introduction and that to which he has been able to rise by their aid.

The Fuegians and the Australian aborigines are still living in a condition very nearly like that of primitive man. The only habitation of the Fuegians, cold as is the climate of their country, is the hut of branches, their only clothing is the skin of a fox, deer, or guanaco, which they throw over the right shoulder or over the left, according to which is exposed to the wind. They have no domestic animal except the dog, which assists them in hunting, and is of no mean service to them; for their only weapons are a javelin tipped with a sharp bone, and bows, with flint-pointed arrows. They are, in fact, contemporaries of our civilization, still in their palæolithic age. They are not good fishermen. They gather a few shells on the beach, and an occasional stranded whale furnishes them a royal feast. They eat their food with only the slightest preparation, sometimes throwing their meat on the fire for an instant to bring out its salinity. They have no convenient means of making fire, and, if the supply they try to keep goes out, have to resort to the tedious process of rubbing sticks. Their existence becomes most terrible when storms prevent them from hunting and fishing.

The Australians are, if possible, more savage than the Fuegians, but they live in a hospitable country, the natural flora of which furnishes them some food-supply, and the fauna abundant game. But they have no domesticated animal. Their wild dog is sometimes tamed and trained to hunting, but has not been reduced to a really domestic condition. With no habitation or fixed abode, the Australian sleeps wherever night overtakes him. He has no clothing or feeling of modesty. His arms are a wooden lance, tipped with a kangaroo's tooth, and the boomerang. His food depends on the chances of the chase. When it is abundant, he never thinks of saving it; if it is exhausted, he suffers hunger or turns anthropophagist.

The Eskimos of Greenland are also hunters and fishers. Notwithstanding the rigor of their climate, they enjoy conditions of existence infinitely superior to those of the Fuegians and Australians; and they owe their advantages to two animals—one not domesticated, the seal, which nearly supplies all their wants. It being very plentiful on their coasts, they hunt it so regularly as to be nearly always out of the danger of privations. The second animal, the dog, is domesticated, and, besides being a valuable auxiliary in the chase, serves them as a draught animal.

The Eskimos close their windows with seal parchment; they