Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/469

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MAN IN NATURE.

furnished us none. The most ancient man known to us by his bones is that one of Spy, which dates from the epoch of the mammoth. Yet it is demonstrated by flint implements that man primarily existed in both hemispheres. We see him, as the great Quaternary glaciers of Europe and America retired, going up toward the north. Europe was then only a narrow promontory which man traveled along in coming from Asia. That is all we know about our primitive ancestors. Beyond that we have no sure trace, no flints. The flints of Thenay are of the Roman epoch. To hazard a few conjectures respecting the Miocene ancestor, whether it was man or a precursor—one or the other certain, although direct proofs are wanting—we should be obliged to recur to the general probabilities furnished by natural history.

As we have seen, natural history proves indisputably that man is the issue of a Primate. It is opposed to the idea that we are descended from an anthropoid like those of the present time, although one of them—the chimpanzee—offers, perhaps, fewer objections to the supposition than the others. It furnishes arguments very favorable to the supposition that our stock comes from a Miocene monkey. It is not contrary to the theory of a direct descent from the lemurians, which were in their turn issue of the marsupials. But nowhere does it permit us to discern whether man came from one or two stocks, or originated at one epoch, or two epochs remote from one another.

The question whether the monkeys are of single or multiple origin is likewise not answered. According to MM. Vogt and Schmidt, the monkeys of the New World had not the same derivation as those of the Old World. This doctrine would support the theory of man having two origins, one common to Asia and America for the white and yellow races, the other on some southern continent joining Africa and Oceania for the negro.

Whether the moment of this origin be single or double, two periods are to be considered: one previous to the acquisition of language, in which the precursor of man is concerned; and the other after this, during which the real man was constituted. With the acquisition of speech a new life begins. Man, more able to associate with his fellows and to come to an understanding with them, would spread, become cosmopolitan, face every kind of climate, meet various necessities of existence, and thereby differentiate himself. This differentiation was all the easier, because his species was of more recent formation and less fixed, and because the media acted with certainty under those conditions. From that time the brain increased, the skull was transformed, prognathism diminished, and the facial angle opened.

But a new factor intervened at the same time. Till then the struggle for existence had been carried on by physical force; now