Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/314

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its chief value for decorative purposes to its translucency, fine venation, and color. Sometimes the original hues have become enhanced by oxidation and through the development of reticulating veins of small size, into which percolating waters have introduced new coloring substances or locally oxidized the protoxide carbonates which seem to form the chief colouring constituent. The finer grades of stone of this type are obtained from few and scattered localities, and, except those that are of cave origin, generally, so far as the author has observed, the most eminently desirable for ornamental purposes are from hot and arid countries and regions not far distant from recent volcanic activity.

Giant Mountain Plants.—Two Swiss botanists, MM. Sommier and Sevier, who have recently explored the Caucasus, tell of the discovery of a mountain flora of giant herbaceous plants, of which little was known before, and which they designate as macro-flora. At the altitude of about fifty-eight hundred feet some plants reach a size which they never attain in the valleys. A campanula, which does not exceed about two feet below, grows to about six feet at that height, with an unpliable stem. The large, kidney-shaped leaves of a valerian are borne at the end of petioles so rigid that they can be carried as parasols. These fields resemble the pampas, and the rocks are hidden in a growth of large plants of different kinds. The luxuriance of this vegetation is ascribed by the authors partly to the extraordinary fertility of the soil, from which the accumulated mold of ages has never been removed; while, as a second way of accounting for them, they are regarded as survivals of the grand flora of some former geological age.

A New Race of Ancient Egyptians.—The continued explorations of Mr. W. Flinders Petrie on the west side of the Nile below Thebes have resulted in the discovery of what he regards as a hitherto unknown race of men, who probably lived in Egypt about five thousand years ago. In the near neighborhood of sites yielding potteries of the best known Egyptian dynasties he found the remains of a town, with cemeteries of which about two thousand graves were excavated, in which there was not a single Egyptian object or the trace of the observance of any Egyptian custom. The bodies, instead of being mummified or buried at full length, were contracted, with heads to the south and faces to the west. They were of fine physiognomy, without prognathism; of remarkable stature—some being more than six feet high and of development of legs indicating a hill race; with brown and wavy but not crisp hair, aquiline nose, and long, pointed head. No hieroglyphics or characters suggesting writing were found, beyond a few scratches on vases. Their vessels were perfect in form—all hand-made—yet their art was of the rudest. A picture in monochrome on one of the vases represents a boat with two cabins, rowed with oars, bearing the ensign of five hills, with ranges of hills on either side, and ostriches striding along. A game of ninepins was found, in which the pieces are formed of stone, with balls of syenite about the size of peas. The people used green paint made from malachite for marking their eyes, and many of the slate palettes on which this was ground were found. Their funeral rites appear to have included a kind of ceremonial cannibalism. They are supposed to have lived about the time from the seventh to the ninth dynasties. In the same region, in a spot exactly resembling the river gravels of England and France, large quantities of similar palæolithic remains were found.

Signs of the Times.—In an article under the above title, by Edward Atkinson, in the August number of the Engineering Magazine, is the following comment on the recent celebration of the opening of the ship canal at Kiel: "There is something rather grotesque in the picture which the nations have made at the opening of the ship canal at Kiel. The object of that canal is mainly to promote commerce, to facilitate exchange, to bring to the occupants of a rather poor soil in middle Europe a necessary supply of food and fibres from other parts of the world, and also a necessary supply of the crude products of the non-machine-using nations for conversion into finished goods for home use and export. In order to celebrate the opening of this peaceful way for commerce, there gathered a collection of naval bulldogs, each for